Terrarium Lab

created by Chris Terai and Stephen Po-Chedley of UW Atmospheric Sciences (2012)


The terrarium demo is a lab demonstration that allows students to actually see the relevant processes (radiation, evaporation, convection, and condensation) involved in the Earth’s energy transport. In essence, we simulate a mini Hadley circulation inside a glass aquarium. The construction of the terrarium takes some time and resources, but once constructed, the terrarium can be used multiple times for the demo with little preparation.

Focus Questions

  1. What keeps the equator from getting hotter and hotter and the poles from getting cooler and cooler?
  2. In what ways is energy transferred around the Earth?
  3. What causes the Hadley circulation?


Lesson Plan (pdf)
Terrarium Schematic (pdf)
Student Worksheet (doc)

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