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MSA Item of the Week
This item is one of the many resources available in the Science State Curriculum Toolkit.
Science Grade 4
Use the passage below to answer the following:
How Do You Keep a Whole Planet Warm?
Light from the sun warms land, water, and air. In turn, the warmed-up land, water, and air give off heat, which rises up toward the sky. Gases in the Earth's atmosphere capture some of that heat and prevent it from escaping into space. This heat trap keeps the ground, oceans, and air at fairly stable, predictable1 temperatures—warm enough to allow thousands of plant and animal species (including humans, like us) to thrive.
Without heat trapping, the Earth's surface would be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is now. If you're living in a place like Wisconsin, that means you'd have to wear boots and a heavy coat in July. BRRRRR! (We won't even talk about January!) The Earth's overall temperature has changed often across the eras— the long periods of time we use to measure the Earth's age. We know this because paleontologists2 have studied the fossils of plants and animals, and because geologists3 can read the Earth's history in rocks and soil. In hotter eras, dinosaurs clomped across warm green landscapes filled with plants. In colder eras, the wooly mammoth survived in rugged terrain of ice and snow.
For the past 10,000 years, the Earth has had relatively stable temperatures. But, for the past 100 years or so, scientists have noticed the Earth seems to be warming up more than usual. This phenomenon4 is called global warming.
1predictable – expected
2paleontologists – scientists who study prehistoric times
3geologists – scientists who study rocks
4phenomenon – something that can be observed
What information do scientists learn from dinosaur and wooly mammoth fossils?
- the age of Earth
- how rocks are formed
- the age of the solar system
- past environmental conditions