Simple Climate Model (v.2)

developed by LuAnne Thompson, UW Oceanography, Stephen Po-Chedley, UW Atmospheric Sciences and Chris Terai, UW Atmospheric Sciences (2014)

Note: A new climate model lesson will be available after the May 18, 2019 workshop.


This lab teaches students about the relationship between forcings, feedbacks, and climate sensitivity using a simple climate model that can either be run on Excel or on the website provided. The simple climate model can be used to teach a variety of topics. For this lesson plan, we focus on forming the students’ understanding of how forcing, feedbacks, and ocean storage of energy have an effect on global temperatures.

Focus Questions

  1. Why has the temperature been rising in the last hundred years?
  2. Why do wiggles exist in temperature records and what determines how wiggly they are?
  3. What is climate sensitivity and what aspect of the Earth’s mean temperature does it control?
  4. How do the oceans regulate the Earth’s temperature?

Background information on:

1. What is in a climate model?
2. How are models tested?

Student Handout of Climate Model Worksheet

Data Files:


2. climatemodel_GROUP.xlsx.

Further Reading:

1. Moss, R.H., et al. 2010. The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature. 463: 747-756, doi:10.1038/nature08823

2. Wayne, G. 2013. The Beginner’s Guide to Representative Concentration Pathways. Skeptical Science.

3. Trenberth, K.E., J.T. Fasullo, J. Kiehl. 2008. Earth’s Global Energy Budget. American Meterological Society, doi:10.1175/2008BAMS2634.1

4. Bindoff, N.L., P.A. Stott, et al. 2013. Detection and Attribution of Climate Change: from Global to Regional. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 10: 894-895.

5. Stocker, T.F., Q. Dahe, G. Plattner, et al. 2013. Technical Summary. Long term climate change: 89.

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