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Global Temperatures
http://serc.carleton.edu/quantskills/teaching_methods/teachingwdata/examples/GlbTmps.html

Robert MacKay, SERC Starting Point and Columbia University Earth and Environmental Science Faculty

In this activity, students create graphs of real temperature data to analyze climate trends by analyzing the global temperature record from 1867 to the present. Long-term trends and shorter-term fluctuations are both evaluated. The data is examined for evidence of the impact of natural and anthropogenic climate forcing mechanisms on the global surface temperature variability. Students are prompted to determine the difficulties scientists face in using this data to make climate predictions.

Activity takes about two to three hours. Access to a computer lab is required.

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Topics

Measurements and Observations
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Grade Level

College Lower (13-14)
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College Upper (15-16)
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Most suitable for a college-level majors course or an audience that is comfortable with quantitative, computer-based activities. Could be used as a homework or lab assignment.

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Definition of climate and climatic regions
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4a
Climate change vs. climate variability and patterns
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4c
Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
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C) Energy.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

The earth has a variety of climates, defined by average temperature, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, and wind, over time in a particular place.
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The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • It is recommended that educator do a dry run with the data first to understand it well.
  • It may be helpful to break the activities up with some in-class discussion instead of requiring the students to do all the activities at once. This will also likely increase student engagement in what could become a very monotonous set of assignments.

About the Science

  • The data only covers years until 2002. This can be updated by the educator by using GISS temperatures, which are available monthly.
  • CO2 plots in the activity are a bit out of date. Using more recent data is important to address the lesser trend since the late 1990s, and discussing long-term trends vs. natural variability that can affect climate over periods of several years.
  • Allows for comparison of several variables and time periods. Students assess climate trends on several time scales, including decadal, interannual, and seasonal.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students use real data to show long-term temperature trends based on scientific data.
  • Strong critical thinking questions based on data and graphs.
  • Complex, multi-step activity guides students through various types of data.
  • Educator will need to assist students through the spreadsheet process.
  • A guide to the data is not included, so educator needs to be comfortable and familiar with the data.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Requires familiarity with Excel.
  • Activity includes all links to data and maps.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

HS-ESS2.D3: Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.

HS-ESS2.D1: Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

Science and Engineering Practices

HS-P1.6: Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory.

HS-P4.1: Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P4.2: Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including determining function fits to data, slope, intercept, and correlation coefficient for linear fits) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, using digital tools when feasible.

HS-P4.3: Consider limitations of data analysis (e.g., measurement error, sample selection) when analyzing and interpreting data

HS-P5.2: Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.

HS-P6.4: Apply scientific reasoning, theory, and/or models to link evidence to the claims to assess the extent to which the reasoning and data support the explanation or conclusion.

HS-P7.4: Construct, use, and/or present an oral and written argument or counter-arguments based on data and evidence.

HS-P8.1: Critically read scientific literature adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas or conclusions and/or to obtain scientific and/or technical information to summarize complex evidence, concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

HS-P8.5: Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

Cross-Cutting Concepts

HS-C1.4: Mathematical representations are needed to identify some patterns.

HS-C1.5: Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.2: Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C2.4: Changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.

HS-C3.3: Patterns observable at one scale may not be observable or exist at other scales.

HS-C3.5: Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).

HS-C4.2: When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C7.2: Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.


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