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Earth's Atmosphere Virtual Lab

Join Dr. One in a spaceship and delve into the Earth’s history. Learn about the major events which caused dramatic changes to the composition of the atmosphere, and explore the theories and evidence which surrounds them.

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Earth's Atmosphere

About this Simulation

The carbon dioxide-rich, oxygen-deprived atmosphere of the early Earth was very different from our modern-day atmosphere. In this simulation, you will learn about the Earth’s atmospheric composition, how it has changed over the last 4.6 billion years, and its importance for sustaining life.

Explore the theory and find the trends!

The Earth was once a hostile environment with an atmosphere deprived of O2, so where did the oxygen come from? With our hi-tech spaceship, you will be able to collate theories and data to simulate the Earth’s past, taking you back billions of years before life evolved. You’ll explore major events which changed the Earth’s atmosphere, such as periods of high volcanic activity, the forming of the oceans, the evolution of photosynthesizing cyanobacteria, the Great Oxidation Event, and the accumulation of O2 which led to the Cambrian explosion! You’ll investigate periods of atmospheric changes and stability, and dig into the different sources of evidence, from fossils and stromatolites to isotopes and iron formations! 

In an interactive activity, you will identify each major event on an area graph using what you know about the atmospheric composition during that period. You will be supported by tailored feedback, quiz questions, and detailed theory pages throughout.

Detail the modern-day atmosphere

A malfunction causes a glitch in the system, causing the data for the modern-day atmosphere to corrupt. It’s up to you to input the correct atmospheric composition into the computer and fix the simulation.

Restore the simulation

Use the knowledge you have learned whilst exploring the Earth’s past atmospheres to correctly input the composition of our modern-day atmosphere. Can you restore the simulation so we can return to modern Earth?

Learning Objectives

At the end of this simulation, you will be able to:

  • Broadly evaluate theories about the early composition of Earth's atmosphere and how it formed

  • Recognize and explain general atmospheric composition stability and change over geologic time

  • Detail the current composition of the earth's atmosphere and why this is important to modern life

Techniques in Lab

At the end of this simulation, you will be able to:

  • Atmospheric composition
  • Impact of changes in the atmosphere
  • Carbon dioxide precipitation
  • Oxygen accumulation
  • Critical evaluation of theories and evidence
  • Area graphs

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Embedded quizzes to help students master science content

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Library of learning resources, lab reports, videos, theory pages, graphics and more

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