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Climate Models

ThinkTV, PBS Learning Media

This video explains how scientists construct computer-generated climate models to forecast weather, understand climate, and project climate change. It discusses how different types of climate models can be used and how scientists use computers to build these models.

Video length is 3:41 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Observations, experiments, and theory are used to construct and refine computer models
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5c

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

  • Use as an introduction to what climate models are and how they are used.
  • See additional teaching tips provided with resource.

About the Science

  • Animations depict the way scientists divide the globe into a three-dimensional grid with many layers reaching up into the atmosphere, to capture many types of information.
  • Provides an excellent beginner's introduction to climate models. The content is good, but it is not visually interesting.
  • Comments from science expert: Overall, this resource is mostly accurate.
    - The terms "model or simulate" will not be clear to this audience. I recommend defining these terms.
    - "They begin by drawing a grid across the surface. This divides Earth into squares". The word "squares" is misleading. I think this is referring to columns on which the equations are solved. My understanding is that the equations are solved within each column, not at the corners.
    - More visuals showing how climate models are run (e.g., big computers) or what their outputs produce and how realistic they can look when compared to satellite imagery would be really helpful/useful.

About the Pedagogy

  • A background essay, teaching tips, and a link to standards are provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • When viewed online in full-screen mode, the image is pixilated.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Systems and System Models

MS-C4.1: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

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.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Systems and System Models

HS-C4.1:Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

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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