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Land Surface Air Temperature


This is a global land surface air temperature graphic showing four overlapping time-series datasets based on records from 1961 - 2000.

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Climate Literacy
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Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
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Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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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.
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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.
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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

  • The data for this graphic is available for download and teachers have the ability to have students reinforce graphing skills.
  • As the figure does not have a real caption, it is important to explain to the students that this is globally averaged data from instruments around the world, plotted over time, as calculated by four different research groups.
  • This link below provides context and discussion about how the global land surface temperature fits in with records from other climatic indicators on a global scale and may be quite useful (see page S26):http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/bams-sotc/2009/bams-sotc-2009-chapter2-global-climate-lo-rez.pdf

About the Science

  • Four different studies of land surface temperature plotted on the same graph. Raw data can be accessed and downloaded for each one.
  • Source is the American Meteorological Society State of the Climate Report.
  • More updated data should be provided to update the series data into 2012.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Provides a nice publicly accessible source for Land Surface Air Temperature record going back before 1980.

About the Pedagogy

  • The graph is bright, colorful, and easy to see clearly.
  • Students can stretch the x-axis and y-axis with a bit of difficulty, and thereby zoom in on the data.
  • Each line on the graph corresponds to a name above the graph, and by mousing over the name, one can see the citation of the study from which the numbers were drawn. This could be useful for higher level students who could compare the approaches of developing these global data sets and limitations to these approaches.
  • By clicking on the name (of the graphed line), one is taken to a new webpage where the data are. This means that students can access the data and plot it themselves.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • For each dataset, one value is plotted for each year in the period of record. For datasets with multiple values in one year, an average is calculated for one annual value. This must be explicitly reinforced with students when analyzing the graphic. Missing annual values are interpolated between non-missing values. Younger students may not be familiar with data represented this way.
  • Links to original data publications provided for higher level students to download the entire data set from that source.
  • Zooming and pan feature for graphic does not work well.

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