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Investigating Climate Change Using Observed Temperature Data
http://serc.carleton.edu/eet/gsod/index.html

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. Weather is the minute-by-minute variable condition of the atmosphere on a local scale. Climate is a conceptual description of an area’s average weather conditions and the extent to which those conditions vary over long time intervals.
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4b
Scientific observations indicate that global climate has changed in the past, is changing now, and will change in the future. The magnitude and direction of this change is not the same at all locations on Earth.
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system. From the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun, instruments on weather stations, buoys, satellites, and other platforms collect climate data. To learn about past climates, scientists use natural records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and sedimentary layers. Historical observations, such as native knowledge and personal journals, also document past climate change.
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Our understanding of climate differs in important ways from our understanding of weather. Climate scientists’ ability to predict climate patterns months, years, or decades into the future is constrained by different limitations than those faced by meteorologists in forecasting weather days to weeks into the future.
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.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
The earth has a variety of climates, defined by average temperature, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, and wind, over time in a particular place.
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

  • 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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