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King's Centre for Visualization in Science


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables
  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus


Collisional Heating in the Atmosphere

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  • This interactive tool shows the molecular effects of different wavelengths of infrared radiation colliding with various greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • Students can select each gas separately, add or remove other atmospheric gases from the simulation, maneuver the 3-D simulation to see it from other angles, and change the wavelength of radiation to see the effects.
Teaching Tips


  • Students can watch the temperature of the simulation increase as the radiation causes more movement of the molecules.

Additional Prerequisites

  • It may help to review the thermal properties of greenhouse gases and the electromagnetic spectrum prior to using this tool.


  • Chemistry and physics classes can use this simulation for lessons about heat, energy, the electromagnetic spectrum, or the greenhouse effect.
  • Biology classes can use this resource as an activity when discussing metabolism, energy flow, photosynthesis, and global warming.
  • Have younger students act out the movements of the molecules as the wavelengths of radiation change.
  • After students have explored all gases, ask students which ones are greenhouse gases and which are not.  Then have them compare the wavelengths that each greenhouse gas react to and identify them on an electromagnetic spectrum chart.
Scientist Notes
The resource deepens students understanding in the interactions of infrared radiation with selected molecules and greenhouse gases. Datasets used for visualizing these collisions and interactions have met prerequisite standards, they are valid and can be replicated. This resource is recommended.
  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS.ESS3.5 Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth’s systems.
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • HS.PS1.5 Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation about the effects of changing the temperature or concentration of the reacting particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs.
    • PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
      • HS.PS2.6 Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.
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