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Global Climate Change
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Understanding and responding to global climate change is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. The science is complex and the data can often appear both bewildering and contradictory. 

As an International Year of Chemistry 2011 legacy, KCVS has worked with global partners to create ExplainingClimateChange.ca , which provides a set of peer-reviewed, interactive, web-based materials to help learners visualize and understand the underlying science of climate change. 

Visualizing the Chemistry of Climate Change (VC3Chem) is where you will find resources for teaching and learning 1st year chemistry through the rich context of climate science.

The Science of Climate Change

The following visualizations help explain some underlying science and chemistry of processes which contribute to climate change.

CFCs in the Atmosphere
cfc The behaviour of CFCs is dependent on both the wavelength of radiation as well as position of the molecule in the atmosphere. In this visualization the user can investigate the various interaction modes of a CFC molecule with electromagnetic radiation across the entire spectrum. The molecule can be rotated in 3D to better view the vibration induced by interaction with light.

Structure of the Atmosphere
Understanding the structure of the atmosphere is critical in understanding where and how global warming occurs. This visualization illustrates the major layers in the atmosphere and identifies a number of key characteristics and defining attributes of each layer.


Infrared Spectral Windows
IR window Greenhouse gases produce spectral features in the infrared portion of the spectrum. One area of concern is the rapidly closing "IR window" -a phenomenon which occurs because different greenhouse gases absorb in different parts of the IR window. This has potentially serious consequences for global warming. The applet shows how the IR signatures of a number of greenhouse gases collectively "close" the window.

Ice-Core Analysis
This is a large applet that introduces the user to the fascinating and complex world of ice-core analysis. Please be patient - download will take a few moments.
Run Applet

Visualizing Global Climate Change

The following applets show results of global climate models and suggest life-style and geopolitical actions that can be taken.

GCC This is an interactive visualization of global climate parameters based on a model generated using Columbia University's EdGCM modeling program. The applet allows the user to compare annual surface temperatures and other climate variables at different locations on the earth for the period 1950 - 2100. It is based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios.
Run Applet

Climate Change Questionnaire

This is an interactive questionnaire that asks students to make a number of life-style choices. The outcome of their choices then determine which IPCC scenario most closely fits these choices. The student will then be invited to explore this choice using an applet very similar to the global climate change applet shown above. Run Applet

Graphing Ocean Acidification

Use this tool to graph data about ocean CO2 and acidity, and calculate some interesting trends.

Arctic Ice Cover

Discover the historical trends of arctic ice cover as you approximate the surface area of ice covered in the far north. Run Applet

pH Calculator

Convert between pH values and concentration of hydronium ions. An interactive graph visualizes the formulaic relationship.

Historic Climate Trends

See the changing trends of temperature, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide over hundreds of thousands of years as recorded from careful studies of ice core samples.

Climate Model Learning Tool

Learn all about scientific models, climate models, IPCC scenarios and storylines in this interactive tour. Run Applet

Ocean Acidification

This applet models the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and average surface ocean pH.

The Global Carbon Cycle

Learn all about carbon fluxes and reservoir stocks in this interactive demonstration of the global carbon cycle. Run Applet

Collisional Heating in the Atmosphere

This animation illustrates the absorption of infrared radiation by CO2 in the troposphere and the collisional loss of this absorbed energy to surrounding N2 and O2 molecules. In this animation the user can sweep through a region of the IR spectrum and excite some of the vibrational modes of CO2. A simple (purely qualitative) thermometer illustrates the rise in temperature of the gas as collisional de-excitation occurs.

Global Carbon Dioxide Footprint and Model

The CO2 footprint model is a geopolitical treatment of the problem of global increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases. The user can adjust the per capita emissions from various regions of the globe and then run a 7-box model of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere over the next 150 years. In this model a 7-way interaction between biosphere, atmosphere, mid-ocean and deep-ocean is calculated. This will help underscore the need to understand CO2 and other greenhouse gases as long-term issues.
Run Applet

Carbon Stabilization Wedges
Reduction of anthropogenic carbon emission into the atmosphere is one of the present day's greatest challenges. This applet, extending the Princeton Carbon Stabilization Wedges approach provides the user with a mosaic of possible mitigation strategies to reduce CO2 emission to, hopefully, a globally safe level..

Planetary Climates: A Delicate Balance
co2 image Climate is regulated by the delicate balance of incoming and outgoing electromagnetic radiation. This applet first explores the climatic condition of various planets, focusing on Mars, Venus, and Earth. The second portion of this applet, the "Build a Planet" simulator, allows a user to alter the four factors that regulate climate: albedo, greenhouse effect, distance from the sun, and surface temperature.

© The King's Centre for Visualization in Science