Science - 2017-18

6.3 c-e - Thermal Energy

The student will investigate and understand the role of solar energy in driving most natural processes within the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and on Earth's atmosphere. Key concepts include
c) the motion of the atmosphere and the oceans;
d) cloud formation; and
e) the role of thermal energy in weather-related phenomena including thunderstorms and hurricanes.

Bloom's Levels:  Analyze; Understand

Adopted: 2010


  • Weather is a short term pattern in atmospheric circulation patterns; climate is a long-term pattern.
  • Radiant energy from the sun creates temperature differences in water, land, and the atmosphere which drive local, regional, and global patterns of atmospheric circulation.

  • I can plan a vacation to the beach with the warmest ocean temperature during a certain time of the year.
  • I can determine the weather forecast by looking at the clouds.
  • I can predict the likelihood of hurricanes and thunderstorms based on atmospheric temperatures.


  • As bodies of water (oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.) absorb thermal energy, the water evaporates causing the air to be warm and moist. Warm, moist air is less dense than cold, dry air, so it rises relative to colder, drier air. As warm, moist air rises, it gives off some thermal energy as the moisture condenses, forming clouds. Clouds are not gaseous water vapor; rather they are minute, condensed water particles.
  • Some thunderstorms are formed where the land is strongly heated. Hurricanes form over warm, tropical water and are fed by the energy of that water. 


In order to meet this standard, it is expected that students will

c) analyze and explain how convection currents occur and how they distribute thermal energy in the atmosphere and oceans.

d) analyze the role of heating and cooling in the formation of clouds.

     order the sequence of events that takes place in the formation of a cloud.

e) design an investigation to determine the effect of sunlight on the heating of a surface.

     describe the relationship between thermal energy and the formation of hurricanes and thunderstorms.


solar radiation, wavelength, ultraviolet rays, visible light, infrared radiation, reflection, absorption, greenhouse effect, convection, electromagnetic spectrum

Updated: Nov 18, 2017