sue mcnab

Climate change course blog

Climate Change course – week 1

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My reflections & attempt at answering the questions from week one of this interesting course:

Key questions:

  • What are the key scientific principles that explain climate change including the greenhouse (blanket) effect?  Radiation from the sun is partially absorbed by the Earth (on average 70%) with 30% being reflected back into the atmosphere as short wave heat radiation; some of this heat radiation is absorbed by “greenhouse” gases which then emit heat radiation, some of which comes back to the earth’s surface raising the Earth’s temperature by about 33 deg C.
  • What are the key feedback mechanisms that help to explain why our climate is able to “self-regulate”?  Water vapour, ice albedo, radiation
  • How can our climate be conceptualised as a system containing a series of components that interact with one another?   5 components: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere (oceans, rivers etc), the biosphere (plants, vegetation), the cryosphere (snow & ice) & the lithospere (rocks etc); all interact to affect the flow of water vapour around the Earth’s surface which in turn affects the climate.

Also consider:

  • What are the most important themes you have learned this week?  The science behind the term greenhouse gases & why these gases affect climate – the fact that they are really acting more like a blanket than a greenhouse.  Also the albedo mechanism – I haven’t come across the term before.


  • What aspect of this week did you find difficult? Concentrating on the science – especially the Planck Stefan-Boltzmann law – don’t really understand it & looking it up is scary!
  • What did you find most interesting? And why? It was all interesting – hard to pick any one thing out.  Good to have it explained in small, easy(ish) to grasp steps & to be able to read/watch them over & over again.
  • Was there something that you learned this week that prompted you to do your own research?  I tried to look up the Planck Stefan-Boltzmann law but found it too difficult to understand – may have another go later on.
  • Are there any web sites or other online resource that you found particularly useful in furthering your knowledge and understanding?  Re the above, all the websites I tried looked too scientific for me – even Wikipedia!

Looking forward to Week 2!


Author: suemcnab

I've been in IT (developing & supporting my own software) for a long time & now want to get involved in new activities! I am very interested in & concerned about the issue of climate change & want to learn more about it.

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