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CLEAN Climate and Energy Vocabularies

The CLEAN team developed a set of terms that define climate science, climate change, and energy awareness. The idea of these terms, or "vocabularies" is to allow users to easily search the collection of activities to hone in on their specific areas of interest. Each teaching resource is tagged with the appropriate vocabularies so that the collection can be browsed across various subject areas.

Screenshot CLEAN vocab

The development of these vocabularies was informed by:

  1. Existing vocabulary terms developed for the SERC collections and refined by insight from workshops and from using the vocabularies to tag hundreds of climate and energy resources held in the SERC collections. The SERC vocabularies were developed to encompass climate and energy topics that would be taught within an undergraduate setting.
  2. Existing vocabulary terms that were developed by the NOAA climate education group targeting K-12 audience.

The vocabularies have 7 top-level terms which are defined by sub-level terms, 43 secondary and 40 tertiary level terms. In some cases additional explanation about the meaning of the vocabularies is provided in a "mouse-over" function and is displayed below in parenthesis.

The vocabularies were tested with user groups on two different occasions with 47 test subjects. Results of the usability testing helped to refine the terms to ensure that they were intuitive and that they sufficiently spanned the subject areas within climate and energy.

CLEAN Climate and Energy Vocabularies


Climate System
(Includes natural processes within the climate system: orbital patterns, solar radiation, oceans, atmosphere, water cycle, the natural greenhouse effect, carbon cycle, regional climates and differences between climate and weather).
Causes of Climate Change (Includes natural changes (cyclic variability, volcanic eruptions, solar output) and human-caused changes (due to GHG emissions and land use changes))
Measuring and Modeling Climate
(Instrumental measurements, proxy data, climate model projections)
Impacts of Climate Change (Includes sea level rise; extreme weather; changes to ecosystems, plants and animals; melting ice and permafrost; ocean wamring; impacts to water resources, agriculture, public health and national security)
Human Responses to Climate Change (Includes policy, mitigation, adaptation, risk management, personal responsibility)
Nature of Climate Science (Includes the process of science and common misconceptions about climate science)
Energy Use (Sources of energy, usage trends, conservation, policy)