Activity Introduction

water-heroQuick summary: Students investigate the role of water vapour in global warming and climate change. They begin by thinking about how water vapour exists in our atmopshere, and then conduct a simple experiment designed to demonstrate how water vapour responds to heating and cooling – or compression and decompression. Students will then look at the ways that water vapour has been used to support and deny human contributions to climate change and global warming. Finally, students will think about the causes and effects of the interaction between CO2 warmth and water vapour.

These activities “… are an invaluable tool for teachers to address climate change in an educationally relevant, scientifically sound, and action-­based way.” – Tim Flannery (Read more)

Learning goals:

  • Students understand the characteristics and effects of water vapour.
  • Students observe and understand the effects of heating and cooling on water vapour.
  • Students recognise the role of water vapour in global warming.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Cross-curriculum priorities: Sustainability OI.1.

Australian Curriculum content description:

Year 10 Science

  • Global systems, including the carbon cycle, rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere (ACSSU189)
  • Scientific understanding, including models and theories, are contestable and are refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community (ACSHE191)
  • People can use scientific knowledge to evaluate whether they should accept claims, explanations or predictions (ACSHE194)
  • Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence (ACSIS204)
  • Evaluate conclusions, including identifying sources of uncertainty and possible alternative explanations, and describe specific ways to improve the quality of the data (ACSIS205)
  • Critically analyse the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems (ACSIS206)

Syllabus OutcomesSC5-12ES, SC5-13ES, SC5-7WS, SC5-8WS

Topic: We Are the Weather Makers

Time required: 60 mins

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – Oversee activity and facilitate discussion

Resources required: Internet access, student worksheet. Each group conducting the experiment will need:

  • A glass jar
  • A rubber balloon with a wide neck OR a large rubber glove
  • Chalk dust

Digital technology opportunities: Infographic (DIY infographic background information) or animation creation (e.g. Wideo or Animoto), digital sharing capabilities.

Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for homework or extension.

Key reading from We Are the Weather Makers: Chapter 2 – The Great Aerial Ocean

Further reading from the book: Chapter 14 – Extreme Weather, Chapter 13 – Rainfall, Chapter 4 – Ice Ages and Sunspots

Keywords: Water vapour, global warming, CO2, climate change.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.

Cool Australia would like to acknowledge:

  • Tim Flannery
  • David Harding, Rose Iser, Sally Stevens
  • Text Publishing and Purves Environmental Fund
  • Climate Council
climate-council-logo textlogo_type purves_environ

Worksheets

Teacher Worksheet

co2-boardTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students will understand the characteristics and effects of water vapour. They will observe and understand the effects of heating and cooling on water vapour and will recognise the role of water vapour in global warming.

Teacher content information: In debates around global warming water vapour is often cited as a villain. Skeptics have argued that water vapour is a more dangerous greenhouse gas than CO2 and has a higher contribution to global warming than CO2. The truth is that the relationship between CO2, water vapour and climate change is complex:

MYTH: Water vapour is the most important, abundant greenhouse gas. So if we’re going to control a greenhouse gas, why don’t we control it instead of carbon dioxide (CO2)?

FACT: Although water vapour traps more heat than CO2, the relationship between CO2, water vapour and climate change means that to fight global warming we need to focus on controlling CO2

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: How many different states does water exist in?

Part 1. A humid climate

Read the quotes from We Are the Weather Makers and respond to the question below:

Water-vapour

Do you live in, or have you travelled to a humid climate? Complete the following table to describe the atmosphere when it contains a high density of water vapour:

Looks like...

Feels like...

Sounds like...

Part 2. Water vapour experiment

For this experiment you will need:

  • A glass jar
  • A rubber balloon with a wide neck OR a large rubber glove
  • Chalk dust

Water vapour is a gas that responds very simply to heating and cooling - or compression and decompression. Conduct the following experiment to demonstrate this:

  1. Put a few centimetres of water in the bottom of a jar.
  2. Place a large rubber balloon or rubber glove over the mouth of the jar and leave from 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the balloon and quickly drop some chalk dust into the jar before replacing the balloon.
  4. Pus
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