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Heating it Up: The Underlying Chemistry of the Greenhouse Effect
Lesson 3 Questions

Test your knowledge of historical climate trends by working through the following questions. Refer back to the lesson pages and the various learning tools as needed.

Temperature and Energy in Earth's Atmosphere
  1. What are the most common gases in Earth's atmosphere?
  2. Challenge: If the concentration of water vapor dramatically increased in our atmosphere, what would the effect be on Earth's temperature?
  3. Sketch a temperature profile (temperature vs. altitude) for Earth's atmosphere. What causes the changes in temperature with altitude?
  4. What is a molecular-level understanding of temperature?
  5. What are the three types of energy transfer listed in the lesson?
  6. Challenge: What are the three types of energy transfer listed in the lesson?
Properties of Gases
  1. Challenge: What colours would you expect to see on the N and O atoms in the electrostatic potential map of a nitrous oxide (N2O) molecule? Does it have an even distribution of charge?
  2. How does the ideal gas model help us to understand the properties of gases?
  3. Challenge: Do gas molecules ever stop moving?
  4. Recall the ideal gas law from Key Idea 2. If you have a sample of CO2 gas in a container that maintains a constant volume, what happens to the temperature when the pressure increases?
Absorption and Emission of Radiation
  1. Which has a higher frequency: infrared radiation or visible light? Which has more energy? Which has a longer wavelength?
  2. Challenge: In Key Idea 3, you saw how UV light causes a bond to break in a CFC molecule, releasing a "free radical." In the stratosphere, how might this process relate to ozone layer depletion? Research the ozone layer and write a short paragraph about the effects of CFCs on ozone.
Atmospheric Molecular Interactions
  1. How do nitrogen and oxygen molecules gain kinetic energy on a hot day?
  2. What is an infrared spectrum of a gas, and what information can it tell us about the gases in our atmosphere?
  3. What does Earth's emission spectrum tell us? If a greenhouse gas absorbs energy at a frequency that Earth emits, what effect does it have on our climate?
Are All Greenhouse Gases the Same?
  1. Do some greenhouse gases cause more warming than others, or do they all have the same effect on Earth's climate? What factors influence their warming potentials?
  2. Challenge: Suppose you create a new pesticide compound for agriculture. The infrared spectrum of this compound shows a large peak at approximately 850cm-1. Look at Earth's emission spectrum once more. Should you be concerned about anthropogenic warming as a result of this compound? What other factors besides its IR spectrum would you need to consider?