Key Idea: The seasonal changes in air temperature are caused by changes in the intensity of energy from sunlight and changes in the number of hours that energy from sunlight is transferred, both of which are brought about by earth's annual movement around the sun.

Students are expected to know that:

  1. Each day, some amount of energy is transferred to a place on earth by sunlight, and some amount of energy is transferred (radiated) away from that place.
  2. The earth’s movement around the sun over a year causes the intensity of sunlight at a place, how long the sun is shining on that place, and, therefore, the amount of energy that is transferred to that place to gradually increase and decrease over the course of a year.
  3. The amount of energy that is transferred away from a place on the earth into space over a day depends on the temperature of the place on that day and on the amount of cloud cover and elevation of the place.
  4. If the amount of energy that is transferred to a place on a given day is greater than the amount of energy that is transferred away from the place, the total amount of energy at that place increases, and the air temperature increases. If the amount of energy that is transferred to a place on a given day is less than the amount of energy that is transferred away from the place, the total amount of energy at that place decreases, and the air temperature decreases.
  5. During the summer, as the amount of energy transferred to a place begins to decrease, the air temperature at that place will continue to increase as long as the amount of energy transferred to that place is greater than the amount of energy being transferred away from it. Similarly, during the winter, as the amount of energy transferred to a place begins to increase, the air temperature at that place will continue to decrease as long as the amount of energy transferred to the place is smaller than the amount of energy being transferred away from the place. The combination of these two effects causes the annual rise and fall of air temperature at any place to be about a month behind the annual rise and fall in the amount of energy received from the sun at that place.
Frequency of selecting a misconception

Misconception
ID Number

Student Misconception

Grades
6–8

Grades
9–12

CLM094

When the average temperature at a place changes over the course of the year, it is due only to changes in the amount of energy transferred from the sun to the earth, not to changes in the amount of energy transferred from earth into space (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

33%

35%

Frequency of selecting a misconception was calculated by dividing the total number of times a misconception was chosen by the number of times it could have been chosen, averaged over the number of students answering the questions within this particular idea.