Atmospheric Changes and Their Effects on Regional Climate

By David Bridges and Daniel Wolfe

Background Information:

High Plains Community Schools are located in Central Nebraska, east of Grand Island, Nebraska, and northwest of York, Nebraska. Our school system is divided into three facilities. High Plains High School in Polk, the Middle School in Clarks, and Hordville is home to the fourth and fifth grades. Elementary Schools are in both Polk and Clarks.

This unit was developed for Middle School (7th-8th) and Ninth grade Agricultural Science students.


  • Objective 1: Students will demonstrate their current knowledge of "Global Warming" using a pre-test.
  • Objective 2: Students will use inquiry methods to describe their knowledge of "Global Warming". Activity 2A: Inquiry Worksheet "Solar Energy".
  • Objective 3: Students will be able to use maximum and minimum diurnal temperatures to describe possible factors of "Global Warming".
    • Activity 3A: Students will have a brief discussion about the use of maximum/minimum thermometers.
    • Activity 3B: Students will place thermometers at selected locations to determine maximum and
      minimum temperatures and factors that effect diurnal temperature.(An alternative is to use standard laboratory thermometers placed at pre-selected locations to determine factors related to temperature.)
    • Activity 3C: Worksheet "Global Temperature Stations"
  • Objective 4: Students will use computer skills to examine selected local or regional sites for climatic data.
    • Activity 4A: Students will learn statistical terms including, trend lines and degree of slope per time period through lecture and discussion.
    • Activity 4B: Students will use "ClimProb" software to examine temperature over time.
    • Activity 4C: Students will use "ClimProb" software to examine frost free days, last frost dates, early freeze dates and other selected data for local and regional sites.
  • Objective 5: Students will use scientific methods to determine the effect of CO2 and 02 concentrations with germinating corn plants.
    Activity 5A: Students will utilize prior skills to plant corn seeds in 2 liter containers. See Ecosystem Response Activity 13, "How Might Elevated CO2 Affect Plants?"
  • Objective 6: Students will be able to use data to understand atmospheric radiation, reflection,absorption and re-radiation system.
    • Activity 6A: Students will graph, using bar graphs or line graphs, atmospheric gases in percentages.
    • Activity 6B: Worksheet: "Energy Flow Through The Earth's Atmospheric System"
    • Activity 6C: Students will learn greenhouse gases through lecture and discussion of CO2, CH4, CFC, HFC, NO2, H2O vapor and trace elements.
    • Activity 6D: Students will watch the Nova/Frontline Video "Global Warming".
  • Objective 7: Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of "Global Warming" and related topics.

Selected Resources:

  • "ClimProb"
  • "Global Environmental Change Workshop", UNL, Dave Gosselin and Steve Meyer, 2000.
  • "Global Change Education Resource Guide", Lynn L. Mortenson, Editor, Office of Global Programs, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Suite 1225, Silver Spring,
    Maryland 20910.
  • "Global Climate-Past, Present and Future, S. Henderson, et al (Eds), EPA Report No. EPA/600/R-93/126, pp. 97-102, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Washington, D.C..
  • "Global Warming", Video, NETV (Nova/Frontline), John Palfman, Editor.
  • "Our Changing Planet", Fiscal Year 2000, U.S. Global Change Research Program.
  • University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Extension Publications, NebGuides, (

Implementation Report

  • Our activity was designed for approximately a one week duration.  After completion of selected components of atmospheric changes and their effects the activity would require at least a two weeks, if not longer to accomplish.
  • A non-graded pretest was given to fifteen sophomore biology students stressing common knowledge and selected vocabulary of global warming.  An evaluated test was given on the final day with most students doing quite well.
  • Students enjoyed the "hands-on" materials the most which was not surprising.  Following the laboratory material discussion of world human population and human effects on global warming was actively discussed and reviewed.
  • Students were only slightly stimulated by the thermometer location activity.  The instructor probably could have been more clever with the activity.
  • Overall, the students developed a broader base and enjoyed a better understanding of global warming and it present and future effects.  I have never taught global warming to this extent before, however, I will continue to develop an on going program for global warming.  Students in general have a vested interest in global warming and its ramifications and are anxious to learn and become better informed with the earth's future and man's role in this complex scenario.