Up to 32 students

45-60 minutes


When we think of parts per million we imagine that something so small could not make much of a significant difference in our day to day life. But as we saw with CFC’s and their effects on the ozone within the upper atmosphere, something small can cause great damage. We will broach the ideas of CFC’s and the ozone in the following lesson plan.

Everything has a frequency, you and I, a wine glass and even man made bridges. Imagine the “fat lady” at the opera as she belts out a long and drawn out note, beside her is a wine glass which eventually shatters. This is a great example of how a sound wave can shatter a glass because the wave has matched the frequency of the materials that make up the glass, the resonant frequency. The vibrations within the molecules are built upon by the sound until the point that the glass can no longer maintain its form. A similar situation occurred in the early 20th century with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The frequency of the passing wind matched that of the bridge and eventually the bridge “shattered” as the wine glass at the opera had. Carbon dioxide and methane have frequencies as well; they are made of matter just like glass or a bridge.

When the Earth is heated by incoming electromagnetic energy it releases energy back into the atmosphere, some of this energy escapes into space and causes no harm. Some of this energy is trapped by gases like carbon monoxide, methane and water vapor. The latent heat energy that is trapped keeps the planet warmer than it would be if they were not present, this is the green house effect. This trapping is because of frequency, latent heat energy’s frequency matched that of the fore mentioned gases and stop the energy from leaving the atmosphere.

Learning Objectives:

1. Understand how carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases keep the Earth warm.

2. Introduction to the physics of greenhouse gases and the interactions with certain types of electromagnetic radiation.

3. Become familiar with potential hazards in excessive influx or lose of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Guiding Questions:

How does carbon dioxide keep the planet warm?


Laptops or Smart Board

Internet connection

1 half of a clear, plastic globe

2 Small thermometers

2 Small paper thermometer shades used to block thermometer from direct sunlight

Dark Paper to place under globe

If Working Indoors:

100-200 watt bulb

flood light

extension cord

Class Discussion/Video:

Discuss with class some ideas about resonant frequency and constructive and destructive interference. This will allow for a clear understanding of how CO2 traps latent heat within our atmosphere. Watch video about the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Activity 1: Green House Effect

#1 On a dark colored surface place both thermometers under the thermometer shades.

#2 Place clear, plastic globe over one thermometer

#3 Allow both thermometers to sit in direct sunlight/lamp light for a minimum of 10 minutes

#4 Take the readings of both thermometers and post on the board

Activity 2: Think, Pair, Share

Have students work in pairs or small group to discuss the video and the results of the green house effect activity.

Conclusion and Wrap Up:

Clarify concepts covered on class.

Have students add to their LINK.

Vocabulary to note:

Resonant Frequency

Constructive Interference

Destructive Interference

Green House Effect


New York Scope and Sequence:

Intermediate and High School Science Standards

Physical Setting:

Key Idea 2.1a - 2.1c

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