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Investigating Climate Change Using Observed Temperature Data

Carla McAuliffe, Earth Exploration Toolbook, TERC

In this activity, students download historic temperature datasets and then graph and compare with different locations. As an extension, students can download and examine data sets for other sites to compare the variability of changes at different distinct locations, and it is at this stage where learning can be individualized and very meaningful.

Activity takes four to five 45-minute class periods. Computer access is required.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate is not the same thing as weather – defining difference
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4b
Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Meteorology and climatology are related but different sciences, and their processes are modeled and forecast differently
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5d

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.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:F) Working with models and simulations
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F) Working with models and simulations.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.

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

  • This is a great tool for teaching Excel as a tool, accessing important real-time data, and creating awareness about changing climate conditions.
  • Students should work in small groups.
  • Undergraduate: Appropriate in lab and as homework
  • High School: Appropriate as a way to access real-time data and teach the finer points of Excel; however, a jumping off point for real in-depth investigations.
  • Middle School: Teacher would need to create the Excel graphs and ask students to interpret. In this case, the resource is a tutorial for the teacher not a lesson for the students.

About the Science

  • Activity has students access format graph and compare historical temperature data for different locations around the world to observe regional differences in climate change.
  • Excellent use and application of science data with a problem-based scenario.
  • Suggested resources for further study are current and good for given grade level.

About the Pedagogy

  • Good organization of learning materials and a logical learning sequence leads students to analyze and understand complex data sets.
  • The instructions are clear, thorough, and well-written but they do require focus. The step-by-step structure of the data access and analysis parts of activity might be difficult for some students to follow easily.
  • The case study provides good background information for students and teachers.
  • Excellent going further activities for advanced students.
  • Comments from expert scientist: It will give a view to students of the climate variability and trends, the differences in these between different climatic zones. It will allow students to make their own conclusions on possible warming, and its geographical distribution. It builds the mathematical expertise of the students, and allows the use of the Excel program to work on the trend, changes in Celsius to Fahrenheit, side-by-side comparisons.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The "show me" feature that helps students through problems and procedures using software is exemplary.
  • Some undergraduate and most high school students will need support and guidance with data access and analysis steps.

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