NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glory and Global Warming Experiment

sun cartoon

Glory will measure the effects of aerosols in the Earth's atmosphere. Particles suspended in our atmosphere (aerosols) can absorb more sunlight or they can reflect the Sun's energy back into space.

In this activity, you will measure the effect of excess carbon dioxide on the temperature of gas inside of soda bottles and see what the effects of aerosols are on the heating of the gas.

Materials:

  • Two or more 2-liter clear soda bottles with the label removed.
  • Identical thermometers for each soda bottle
  • Opaque tape
  • Source of carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Spray paint or spray glitter
  • Modeling clay
thermometer cartoon

For your source of carbon dioxide, you may use one of the following methods:

  1. Dry CO2 source - Seltzer bottle charges - fill a dry seltzer bottle with one charge of carbon dioxide. You will use the carbon dioxide in the seltzer bottle to fill one of the bottles with carbon dioxide. For this method, both bottles can be left dry.
  2. Wet CO2 source - Alka-seltzer - you will put a cup of water into both bottles, then put a couple of alka-seltzers into the water in one of the bottles. A tablespoon of baking powder can be substituted for the Alka-seltzer.
  3. Wet CO2 source - Put a cup of club soda or seltzer water in one of the bottles and a cup of tap water into the other bottle

Method:

  1. Drill the caps of the bottles to the same diameter as your thermometer. Place the thermometers through the holes in the caps several inches. Use the modeling clay to hold the thermometers in place and seal the hole.
  2. Use the seltzer bottle to fill one of the bottles with CO2, or, for the wet CO2 source, (method 2) fill the bottles with identical quantities of water and place the Alka-seltzer into one of the bottles, or (method 3) place identical quantities of seltzer/club soda into one of the bottles and plain tap water into the other. Make sure the liquids are at the same temperature when starting the experiment.
  3. Place the caps with thermometers onto the tops of the bottles.
  4. Put the bottles into sunshine. Make sure they receive the same amount of sun. NOTE: a heat lamp may be substituted for the sun, but you must be very careful to place the bottles exactly the same distance from the lamp.
  5. Shade the thermometers by putting a strip of opaque tape on the outside of the bottles. The tape must be the same length on both bottles.
  6. Measure the temperature of the bottles over time. Record the temperature of each bottle every five minutes for a half hour.

The effects of carbon dioxide on the temperature

The bottle with carbon dioxide in it will heat up faster and will stabilize at a higher temperature than the bottle with air. Some people measure a difference of five degrees Celsius or more, or the difference between a warm spring day and a hot summer day.

The effects of aerosols on the temperature.

earth

You can add "aerosols" to your experiment. Spray paint or glitter onto additional bottles, both with and without the CO2 added. Hold the spray paint far enough from the bottles to coat the surface of the bottles lightly enough that most light still shines through the bottle. Try it with different colors and quantities of spray paint or spray glitter. Some of the coated bottles will heat up faster, while others may heat up more slowly. Explain the effect of the "aerosol" color on the heating of the bottles.

What you will learn

The Earth's temperature would be much colder without the CO2 in our atmosphere we have naturally. When we add more, the Earth warms up.

The effects of atmospheric CO2 and aerosols on our planet's temperature are measurable with simple tools anyone can use. The effects are as real as touching the hoods of black and white cars that have been standing in the sun.

Glory will help us understand how the sun's energy is captured or reflected by aerosols in our atmosphere in the same way as the paint and glitter on your bottles. Glory's instruments will measure these effects precisely and in a way that we have never measured them before.