001 - The atmospheric system

Geographic Knowledge and Understanding

The atmospheric system, including the natural greenhouse effect and energy balance (incoming shortwave radiation and outgoing longwave radiation)

Key Concepts

The atmospheric system is impacted by both natural and human processes.


  • To understand how the atmospheric system works.
  • To have knowledge of the energy balance.
  • To have knowledge of the natural greenhouse effect.

Key Terminology

            • Long wave radiation
            • Short wave radiation
            • Energy Balance
            • Greenhouse effect.
            • Atmospheric circulation system
            • Albedo effect

We will be using the terms above throughout the course of the lesson but if you are still unsure then use the links below to help yo define them.

Useful Links

Activity One - Comprehension

Before we begin to study the atmosphere in terms of climate change we need to look at what the atmosphere is made up of. It is important to know the difference between short and long wave radiation, what the ozone layer is and how the albedo effect works. Collect a copy of the Google Doc below and copy it in using the articles in the 'Useful Resources' box.

Atmospheric Processes

Activity Two - Draw

Climate change is at the forefront of many people's daily lives and while we may consider the impact of recycling we might not link this back to the Earth's Energy Budget. If we had an equal about of energy coming into our atmospheric system as that which was leaving then our climate would not change as the energy is balanced. Ultimately the atmosphere is a system and we can draw a systems diagram to show what the Earth's inputs, stores, transfers and outputs are. This diagram will in some ways be similar to that which you drew for a drainage basin. Use the image one and the 'Useful Words' to help you.

Useful Words

Short-wave solar energy Long-wave radiant energy Clouds (absorb energy) Ice

Dust/Particles (absorb energy) Vegetation Winds/air (distribution of energy)

Condensation Oceans (distribution of energy) Evaporation Precipitation

Reflected scattered energy Reflected radiated energy Ablation

Activity Three - Explain

When discussing climate change the greenhouse effect is at the core of it. What we now need to do is differentiated the difference between the 'natural' greenhouse effect and the 'enhanced' greenhouse effect.

      1. Explain the difference between the natural and enhanced greenhouse effect.
      2. Collect a copy of the table below and fill it in using the articles in the 'Useful Resources' box.
Greenhouse Effect

Exam Style Question

Explain how the greenhouse effect can be impacted by one natural and one enhanced factor. [3 x 3 marks]