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22 Years of Sea Surface Temperatures

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Visualizations

This NOAA visualization on YouTube shows the seasonal variations in sea surface temperatures and ice cover from 1985 to 2007. The visualization is based on data collected by NOAA polar-orbiting satellites. El Niño and La Niña are easily identified, as are the trends in decreasing polar sea ice.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Axial tilt of Earth governs incoming sunlight and seasonality
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1c
Climate change vs. climate variability and patterns
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4c

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

About the Science

  • The NOAA polar-orbiting satellites (POES) have been collecting sea surface temperature data for over 22 years. This animation is a compilation of that data from January 1985 - January 2007.
  • Of note are the changes in the Gulf Stream, El Niño and La Niña cycles (ENSO) in the Pacific, and the seasonal changes in sea ice cover.
  • Further changes in sea surface temperature have occurred since this visual was made. Educators should seek up-to-date data if needed. This NOAA page contains more recent data and figures: NOAA Sea Surface Temperature.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The strength of this resource is that it provides a visual animation of change with time. Therefore, in a minute or so the reviewer gets a real feel for the magnitude of SST changes throughout the time period that we have been making observations. This is an incredibly beneficial tool for use in a classroom!

About the Pedagogy

  • Have students keep track of ENSO fluctuations, the seasonal changes of the sea ice, and polar sea surface temperatures. This is only one of many NOAA visualizations that may be useful in the classroom.
  • As with this and other NOAA Visualizations on YouTube, educators may want to embed the video on a different website because the comments that follow it can be distracting or inappropriate.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent quality.
  • Video can be embedded on another website to avoid commentary on YouTube site.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-ESS2.D3:The ocean exerts a major influence on weather and climate by absorbing energy from the sun, releasing it over time, and globally redistributing it through ocean currents.

MS-PS3.B2:The amount of energy transfer needed to change the temperature of a matter sample by a given amount depends on the nature of the matter, the size of the sample, and the environment.

MS-PS3.B3:Energy is spontaneously transferred out of hotter regions or objects and into colder ones.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Energy and Matter, Patterns

MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-ESS2.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

HS-PS3.B2:Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems

HS-PS3.D1:Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1

Energy and Matter

HS-C5.4: Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems.

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