The
information in this module on the Sun-Earth system is necessary to comprehend
such physical phenomena as the greenhouse effect and global warming. It can
be used as one element of a course on global change or can be integrated into
more traditional introductory classes in astronomy, physics, or Earth sciences.
I hope to show students that they can understand the basic physical principles
behind many of the global changes they read about in the paper and weekly news
magazines.

The material is aimed at first- or second-year students. The mathematics should be accessible to any student who has studied introductory algebra in high school.

There is a review of scientific notation in Appendix I, and Appendix II contains a brief discussion of units and dimensional analysis. One of the best ways to learn new concepts in science is through problem-solving. The problems at the end of each section are intended to give the students practice in using scientific notation and require them to make use of the information discussed in each section. Appendix III lists values for the quantities that will be needed to work the problems.

For those students who would like hands-on experience with scientific measurements, Appendix IV describes an experiment to measure the solar constant with easily obtainable items. This experiment is fun, and the results can be surprisingly accurate if sufficient care is taken with the measurements.