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Snowpack: Decadal Averages Map

California Energy Commission

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This is an interactive map of California and the Sierra Nevada mountains, showing how the amount of water stored in the snowpack will vary under different climate scenarios. The tool shows observations and projections from 1950 to 2090, and uses low or high emission scenarios to model future snowpack. The tool can be adjusted to show different months of the year and various climate models, graphed by site.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 7 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts, 7 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Effects of climate change on water cycle and freshwater availability
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7b
Climate change has consequences
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Climate change has consequences

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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.

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

  • Students could be paired for exploring this visualization and the resources that accompany it.
  • Teachers should prep students about units, scenarios, and the difference between observed data and modeled data.
  • The models listed under 'More Options' should be explained for learners.
  • Other interactive California-based maps to use in conjunction with this one are available at http://cal-adapt.org.

About the Science

  • Students use an animation to visualize the projected change in snow-water equivalence in the state of California. Students can view predicted changes in snow pack by using different models.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Clearly illustrates model predictions of snowpack under different climate change scenarios. Has links to data sources, and explains uncertainty in climate modeling. Although any projection must be a model, the difference between observation and projection could be better emphasized.

About the Pedagogy

  • Very relevant for students in CA since they can choose their local region and see predicted changes in snow pack. Can also be used as a case study.
  • Has a graphing tool to display data. Users will need to access instructions and supporting resources that accompany the visualization to fully understand what the interactive shows and what it implies for California's water supply.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Visualization is more effective when animation is run on "slow" setting.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 7

MS-ESS2.C1:Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.

MS-ESS2.C2:The complex patterns of the changes and the movement of water in the atmosphere, determined by winds, landforms, and ocean temperatures and currents, are major determinants of local weather patterns.

MS-ESS2.C3:Global movements of water and its changes in form are propelled by sunlight and gravity.

MS-ESS2.C5:Water’s movements—both on the land and underground—cause weathering and erosion, which change the land’s surface features and create underground formations.

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

MS-ESS3.D:Global Climate Change

Cross Cutting Concepts: 8

Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect

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

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C2.3:Phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C7.2: Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.

MS-C7.3:Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.

MS-C7.4:Systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms.

MS-C7:Stability and Change

Science and Engineering Practices: 7

Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

MS-P1.3:Ask questions to determine relationships between independent and dependent variables and relationships in models.

MS-P2.2:Develop or modify a model— based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

MS-P2.3:Use and/or develop a model of simple systems with uncertain and less predictable factors.

MS-P2.4:Develop and/or revise a model to show the relationships among variables, including those that are not observable but predict observable phenomena.

MS-P2.5:Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

MS-P4.1:Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

HS-ESS2.C1:The abundance of liquid water on Earth’s surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planet’s dynamics. These properties include water’s exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks.

HS-ESS2.C:The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes

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.

HS-ESS3.D2:Through computer simulations and other studies, important discoveries are still being made about how the ocean, the atmosphere, and the biosphere interact and are modified in response to human activities.

HS-ESS3.D:Global Climate Change

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Patterns, Cause and effect, Stability and Change

HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C2.4:Changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.

HS-C7.2:Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data

HS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

HS-P1.3:ask questions to determine relationships, including quantitative relationships, between independent and dependent variables

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P2.5:Develop a complex model that allows for manipulation and testing of a proposed process or system.

HS-P4.2:Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including determining function fits to data, slope, intercept, and correlation coefficient for linear fits) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, using digital tools when feasible.

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