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Planetary heat pumps

These resources from the European Space Agency climate change initiative education resource pack allow students to learn about how the ocean circulation has an impact on the climate. This redistribution of heat around the Earth 'planetary heat pump' supplies warmer water to the poles and influences the rate at which sea ice is formed.

The phenomenon of global thermohaline circulation is explored in the first activity 'Planetary Heat Pumps', with students performing specific heat capacity calculations to consider how the ocean and atmosphere have such an important role in regulating the climate. The second practical investigation 'Rising and Falling Water' models the movement of water with differing temperatures that replicates ocean thermodynamics such as stratification. This is the separation of waters of different densities into distinct layers that has an impact upon the exchange of heat, carbon and oxygen so affects ecosystems greatly. The experiment can be carried out as a remote learning exercise or as a homework. The final task requires computer access as it is research based upon using the 'Climate from Space'  web application to study the behaviour of the Gulf Stream. Real data can be analysed as thermal cameras on satellites can detect the temperatures of oceans across the whole world at regular intervals so by comparing trends and patterns from the Gulf stream and other areas of the North Atlantic, students can explain the links between sea surface temperatures and another climate variables. All activities can be carried out independently or as a group with all teacher notes and student worksheets provided.

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