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A Demonstration Of The Infrared Activity Of Carbon Dioxide, Philip Sieg, William Berner, Peter Harnish, Philip C. Nelson Jan 2019

A Demonstration Of The Infrared Activity Of Carbon Dioxide, Philip Sieg, William Berner, Peter Harnish, Philip C. Nelson

Department of Physics Papers

Before they can talk meaningfully about anthropogenic climate change, students need to grasp basic principles of natural planetary climates, for example, the key role of trace atmospheric gases in setting surface temperature. We describe a dramatic demonstration that scales well for large audiences and that requires as little as ten classroom minutes to show the crucial difference between room air and carbon dioxide gas. Beyond its significance for public policy, the demonstration can serve as a springboard to motivate discussion of important physics concepts such as rotation and vibration spectra.