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King's Centre for Visualization in Science


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Ebooks
  • Interactive Media
  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables

Regional Focus


Heating It Up: The Chemistry of the Greenhouse Effect

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  • In this self-paced lesson, students will learn about the chemistry of the greenhouse effect.
  • The lesson includes information about the relationship between temperature and energy in the Earth's atmosphere, properties of gases, absorption and emission of radiation, atmospheric molecular interactions, lapse rate, Earth's radiative energy balance, and the difference between greenhouse gases. 
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson uses text, visualizations, and checkpoints for understanding.
  • The lesson provides comprehensive information on the greenhouse effect.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have a basic understanding of chemistry and physics concepts such as thermal energy, covalent bonds, electronegativity, electromagnetic spectrum, and wavelengths.
  • Some students may be unfamiliar with CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons).
  • This is part 3 of 9 in Explaining Climate Change, a series of lessons from The King's Centre for Visualization in Science. 


  • This is quite a technical and dense lesson, so teachers should pay attention to the pace at which they assign the six sections. Teachers may want to assign one key idea section at a time and check for understanding before proceeding to the next one.
  • The reading level for these slides is upper high school to college-level, so teachers may want to employ reading scaffolds, such as graphic organizers, for students.
  • Teachers may want to check for the students' understanding of chemistry concepts first and then support their scientific vocabulary acquisition for new terms such as electrostatic potential, diatomic molecules, infrared spectrometry, etc. 

Scientist Notes
Practical steps used in explaining energy transfer have no contradiction. The resource is recommended for teaching energy balance and its interaction in the earth-ocean-atmospheric system.
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS2: Earth’s Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS-ESS2-4 Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • HS-PS1-1 Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
      • HS-PS1-5 Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation about the effects of changing the temperature or concentration of the reacting particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs.
    • PS3: Energy
      • HS-PS3-2 Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as a combination of energy associated with the motions of particles (objects) and energy associated with the relative position of particles (objects).
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