Worksheet 2.3

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2. Greenhouse light and biosphere

The effect of thermal radiation on greenhouse gases

The greenhouse as a model of the troposphere

These experiments investigate whether the colour of the ground has an impact on the greenhouse effect. Carry out the experiments in a very sunny room that is free of draughts.

Materials needed:


petri dishes of the same size (diameter ~100 mm)


measuring devices with temperature sensors that show the same temperature under the same conditions (choose accordingly!)


white sheet of paper or cardboard greater than 100 mm in diameter


black sheet of paper or cardboard greater than 100 mm in diameter


heat insulating support (e.g. a piece of wood)


big piece of cardboard (or other material) to cover the petri dishes from the sun while you set up the experiment.


clock with a second hand

While you are setting up the experiment no direct sunlight should reach either of the "greenhouses".   At the start of the experiment, the "greenhouses" should both be put simultaneously in the Sun and be exposed for the same amount of time.

1. Figure 1: Setup of the experiment on the Greenhouse Effect.
© 2004 Seesing, Tausch Universität-Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg.

Set up the experiment as shown in Figure 1.

Both petri dishes should be placed upside down on top of the temperature sensors and the different coloured pieces of paper.  The temperature sensors should not touch either the glass or the paper but be in the air trapped under the petri dish.




Illuminate both "greenhouses" simultaneously with sunlight.

Record the temperature at regular time intervals. 

Record your results in this table:

time in seconds














temperature - white background [°C]












temperature - black background [°C]















2. Figure 2: a) greenhouse with a white background, b) greenhouse with a black background.
© 2004 Seesing, Tausch Universität-Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg.\


Tick the correct answer:

After a few hours continuous irradiation with sunlight, the temperatures in the greenhouses a) and b) shown in Figure 2. are:

q the same
q higher in a than in b
q lower in a than in b


Give reasons for your answer. Use the terms: "colour of the ground", "light" and "heat radiation".

Figure 3: A greenhouse as a model. 
© 2004  Seesing, Tausch Universität-Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg.

Figure 4: Nature: "The real greenhouse".
© 2004  Seesing, Tausch Universität-Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg.


Figure 3 shows a greenhouse made of glass with three different sized windows in its roof.  The relative areas of the glass roof and the three windows represent the differing contributions of the four most important greenhouse gases to the greenhouse effect.  Which four gases are these? Show their relative importance on the figure below.


The table below shows several parts of the greenhouse model in Figure 3. Complete the table by writing down which parts of nature they represent and how they effect light and heat radiation.

symbol in the greenhouse model

part of nature this represents

effect of this on light and heat radiation






glass roof and windows





ground with plants and a gardener





white curtains




white table





6.  © 2004  Seesing, Tausch Universität-Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg


Worksheet, Solution

About this page:

authors: M. Seesing, M. Tausch - Universität Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany
last update: 2004-05-13

Last modified: Monday, 1 April 2019, 3:08 PM