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Byrd Polar Research Center Climate Model Simulation

Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University

This set of animations and interactive simulations from the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University helps students develop an understanding of models used to understand the Earth system. Students consider the types of data that need to be included in a climate model, looking at inputs, outputs, and variables. The animations show how data is calculated for grid cells and assembled into a comprehensive model.

The animations of figures in the simulation seem to target middle school audiences, but the content may be more relevant to high school and undergraduate students.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Simulation/Interactive supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

World's climate definition
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2a
Equilibrium and feedback loops in climate system
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2f
Observations, experiments, and theory are used to construct and refine computer models
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5c
Climate models are robust enough to be used for guiding decision and actions as response to climate change
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5e

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

  • Teachers should be aware that the content is at the high school and undergraduate level but the presentation design is more appropriate for middle school.
  • Have students ignore the Hurricane Ike section.
  • Teachers can choose content from the right-hand menu that meets their teaching needs.
  • The spoken text is displayed as captions at the bottom of visualization.
  • Visualization can be used as a collection or series of lessons on systems and models

About the Science

  • This interactive simulation/animation on Earth system science and climate models is produced by the Byrd Polar Research Center and the Technology Enhanced Learning and Research Center at Ohio State University.
  • The use of analogies, such as bathtubs to convey the idea of hydrologic and atmospheric reservoirs, and other easy-to-understand concepts make this a strong introduction to modeling in general and climate models in particular.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Comprehensive introduction to the concept of models in general and to climate models in particular. Some of the slides would be suitable for young pupils or the general public, while on others complex physical formulas are introduced and are targeted at more advanced students.

About the Pedagogy

  • Accessible to many different audiences.
  • This entire interactive simulation could potentially be used as a mini course for undergraduates on the use of models to understand environmental systems.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Most of the sections of the resource can be used independently with ease.
  • The content is provided through a computer-generated animated character in a classroom setting. The character "lectures" through a series of learning units that include interactive activities to aid a learner in developing an understanding of Earth systems and climate models.
  • The final section, focusing on changing weather dynamics during Hurricane Ike, has some inconsistencies that may confuse some learners and is the least relevant part of the resource for understanding climate models.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Simulation/Interactive supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Systems and System Models

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C4.3:Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

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-ESS3.D1:Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Systems and System Models

HS-C4.2:When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C4.4:Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

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