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Mauna Loa CO2 Collection Data

Connecticut Energy Education

Students examine data from Mauna Loa to learn about CO2 in the atmosphere. The students also examine how atmospheric CO2 changes through the seasonal cycle, by location on Earth, and over about 40 years and more specifically over 15 years. Students graph data in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere and draw conclusions about hemispherical differences in CO2 release and uptake.

Activity takes about one to two class periods.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
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Human activities have increased GHG levels and altered global climate patterns
About Teaching Principle 6
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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E) Organizing 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:2.3 Humans and Their Societies:D) Global Connections
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D) Global Connections.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
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A) Human/environment interactions.

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

  • Read the student worksheet first, which has a more constrained dataset for graphing. Educators' guide contains a more extensive dataset that the educator can give to more advanced students.
  • Younger students may require additional scaffolding for graphing and analyzing the graphs.
  • We suggest that educator look for the most up-to-date Keeling Curve. Suggested link: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/#mlo_full.
  • Educator should be prepared to explain to students that the volcanic gases are not affecting the measurements, which is an often-cited argument that climate change deniers use to discredit these CO2 measurements.
  • Amount of material may be overwhelming for educators.
  • The multi-decadal trend is calculated but none of the discussion questions prompt students to discuss the data. A discussion should be initiated by the educator.

About the Science

  • This data-intensive activity uses real world datasets.
  • The discussion on Keeling and the history of the Keeling curve is very interesting.

About the Pedagogy

  • Answers are provided to all questions on student worksheets.
  • Educators' guide also gives suggestions as to where/how students might be challenged by the activity.
  • There is an extensive amount of data, which could be overwhelming for some students. Educator should provide good guidance.
  • The activity strengthens graphing and interpreting as important analytical skills.
  • Having the students graph the data so that they really get a sense of what the numbers are and then having them describe the reason for the variations they see is pedagogically very good.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Ready for use.
  • In order to download the activity, the educator needs to register and log in. Registration is free and should not hinder access to or use of activity.

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