The greenhouse effect and the radiative equilibrium

Status: Jul 2022

Without the natural greenhouse effect, it would be very cold on earth with an average of -18 degrees Celsius and no life would have been able to develop. Fortunately, greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and water vapor ensure life-friendly temperatures. However, human activities have significantly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, threatening the life-friendliness of our planet!

With this module, the physical processes underlying the greenhouse effect can be worked out. The content focuses on the following three topics:

1. The earth is irradiated (radiation equilibrium).
2. The earth, a radiating planet (thermal radiation)
3. The effect of greenhouse gases (greenhouse effect)

Video of the module: How does the greenhouse effect work?

Module materials

The following parts from the manual accompany this module in terms of content:

  • Chapter 2: Understanding the Greenhouse Effect (pdf)
  • Section 4.1: The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Effect (pdf)

Matching activities from the climate kit:


  • Global warming animations by artist Antti Lipponen.
  • Warming Stripes and spiral animations by Ed Hawkins (climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) at the University of Reading and co-author of the IPCC AR5 report).
  • Visualized climate simulations of DKRZ.
    Particularly noteworthy is, for example, the animation on the SSP scenarios; an overview can be found in the  gallery.
  • Animated spirals on Carbon Budget, CO2 Concentration and Global Mean Temperature on - scary but worth seeing.

Do you know of other recommended and suitable material?
Please contact us so we can share your find with other educators. Thank you very much!

H5p exercises, which are clearly assigned to an activity from the climate suitcase, can be found on the respective activity page.

  • h5p exercises of the Gröbenzell grammar school
  • The temperature of the earth under physical consideration (for higher grades)

You have designed a suitable h5p-exercise yourself and would like to share it?
Please contact us so that we can provide your work to other teachers. Thank you very much!

You have developed a suitable learning unit (e.g. suitable for the LehrplanPLUS Jgst. 9 GY in Bayern) and would like to share it with other teachers?
Please contact us so that we can provide your work to other teachers. Thank you very much!