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Climate Change in Physics

We have created a set of resources designed to allow physics teachers to demonstrate how the core physics taught links to current climate change research and action. For each topic, an expert in the field has recorded a short film which could be shown at the end of the lesson or topic. For some topics, practical activities or worksheets are also included:

Adapting the National Grid

We have a large and growing proportion of our electricity from renewables, and the amount of electricity generated varies depending on the weather. In this film, Jade Kimpton from the National Grid shows how the flow of electricity in the National Grid is getting more complex. 

Key words: renewable and non-renewable energy, greenhouse gasses, fossil fuels, gravitational potential and kinetic store of energy.

Associated activity: UK energy mix

Clouds: Uncertainty in Climate Projections

Clouds reflect the Sun’s light, cooling the planet, but they can also act a bit like greenhouse gases, warming the planet. In this film, Dan Grosvenor from the University of Leeds shows how different types of cloud have a different climate effect.

Key words: transmit, scatter, reflect, dispersion, refraction, electromagnetic radiation

Associated Activity: Light levels and cloud colour

Atmospheric Pressure

The Jet streams are bands of fast winds high in the atmosphere which are driven by pressure differences. Stormy weather follows the jet stream. In this film, Tim Woollings from the University of Oxford shows how, as the lower atmosphere gets warmer, we need to understand how the patterns of pressure and the jet stream change and what effect that will have on storms in the UK.

Key words: Atmospheric pressure, weight, force

Associated activity: Using PhyPhox to investigate atmospheric pressure

 

Optimising Flight Times

Cathie Wells from the University of Reading is helping aircraft conserve fuel which reduces greenhouse gas emissions by making use of high resolution forecasts of three dimensional wind speeds in the atmosphere.

Key Words: speed, distance, time, velocity, greenhouse gas

Associated Activity: Optimising flight times

States of Matter – Reducing Aircraft Contrails

Contrails occur when water vapour from jet engines condenses – only when the temperature and humidity conditions of the air is right. Contrails act like greenhouse gases. Marc Stettler from Imperial College, London is interested in guiding aircraft to fly where conditions are right, reducing contrail formation.

Key words: gas, liquid, solid, evaporate, condense, sublimate, deposit, humidity, latent heat

 

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Teaching resources

Secondary Maths, Secondary Science
Numerical activity calculating total speed (velocity) of an aircraft.
Secondary Science
Practical physics resource investigating renewable and non-renewable energy sources
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