OCR - P1: Radiation and waves

P1.2 What is climate change and what is the evidence for it?
Background to the topic What you should be able to do:

All objects emit electromagnetic radiation with a principal frequency that increases with temperature.

The Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere which allows some of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the Sun to pass through; this radiation warms the Earth's surface when it is absorbed.

The radiation emitted by the Earth, which has a lower principal frequency than that emitted by the Sun, is absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by some gases in the atmosphere; this keeps the Earth warmer than it would otherwise be and is called the greenhouse effect.

One of the main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere is carbon dioxide, which is present in very small amounts; other greenhouse gases include methane, present in very small amounts, and water vapour.

During the past two hundred years, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been steadily rising, largely the result of burning increased amounts of fossil fuels as an energy source and cutting down or burning forests to clear land.

Computer climate models provide evidence that human activities are causing global warming. As more data is collected using a range of technologies, the model can be refined further and better predictions made.

1. explain that all bodies emit electromagnetic radiation, and that the intensity and wavelength distribution of any emission depends on their temperatures.
2. explain how the temperature of a body is related to the balance between incoming radiation, absorbed radiation and radiation emitted; illustrate this balance, using everyday examples including examples of factors which determine the temperature of the Earth