Dynamic Planet, Division C

National Science Olympiad, May 20, 2000

Eastern Washington University, Cheney WA


Page lasted updated May 9, 2000 (new textbooks suggested, clarification re. laptops)

Note: I am taking a break from the event in 2001. This years' Earth Science event may be very different in content from the event I have been running.

New! Description of Part 3 of the event posted.

New! Materials from 1999 event here

This page will be updated frequently, so check back often.

All Graphing calculators or their equivalent will be allowed at the event. If you want to use a calculator, you should bring your own. None will be supplied. Notes and other hard-copy reference material ARE allowed, and I have been informed that the event rules count laptops and any kind of calculator as allowable electronic resources. (but no communication devices like wireless web, email, or cell phones, of course. . Please don't go overboard on resources though; they are unlikely to help much. The key to success in this event is understanding physical principles and how to apply them, not memorization of facts, formulae and numbers.

The main theme will be the physics of climate, and particularly the interplay of CO2, water vapor, and climate. Participants should know about energy units and conversion (watts, joules, and all that), the carbon cycle, basic physics of the greenhouse effect, the Earth's radiation budget, and the scientific issues relevant to the global warming problem.

There will be three parts to this event.

Given the nature of the scoring, it is not anticipated that a tie-breaking event will be needed.

On a technical note, it would be a good idea if everybody new how to read and use a graph with logarithmic axes (log-linear, or log-log plots). For Design-a-planet, it will be essential to know how the radiation budget determines the surface temperature of a planet. Make sure you understand the basics of black-body radiation, and the Stefan-Boltzman law (i.e. "sigma T to the Fourth").

Some good books to look at:

For further information, take a look at the online coursenotes for our introductory Global Warming course, and the recommended reading listed there:

  • Notes and Lab Manual for PS 134, Global Warming

    Also see the notes for Geosci232, especially Chapter 2. Note that an error in the conversion factor between BTU and Joules, given in the Appendix, was corrected 5/6/2000.

    For an overview of recent atmospheric model results related to global warming, see the GFDL web site on their simulations. See especially the results listed below the subheading "Climate Dynamics."

    The Carbon Cops part of the event will require an understanding of molecular weights, and basic notation for chemical reactions. For example, if I tell you that I have 1 kilogram of CO2 in a bunch of air, you should be able to tell me how many kilograms of carbon I have. Also, if I have 1 kg of air, and 300 molecules out of each million are CO2, you should be able to say how many kilograms of carbon there are (if I tell you that the mean molecular weight of air is about 29). Similarly, if you have a calcium carbonate (CaCO3) rock weighing 10 kg, you should be able to say how many kilograms of carbon there are. Concepts regarding energy and carbon content of fossil fuels will be used. It would also be a good idea to review the basics regarding weathering of silicate rocks into carbonates. It would be a waste of time to spend a lot of time memorizing numbers. All necessary data (e.g. the carbon content of gasoline or coal) will be provided. The important thing is to understand how to use the basic concepts to solve problems.

    For a good introduction to interpretation of satellite images take a look at the National Weather Service page, and the UIUC Weather2010 project. (This pertained to the 1999 event, but I'm leaving the link here since it's interesting.

    Raymond T. Pierrehumbert , Professor in Geophysical Sciences

    Take a look at my home page to see what I work on.

    Take a look at the University of Chicago Geosci Dept. home page, too.

    Please Think of Us When Applying to College

    Please Think of Us Again When Applying to Graduate School