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GISS Surface Temperature Analysis


This site provides a useful set of graphical representations of mean temperature change in different land/ocean surfaces over the past 120+ years.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Static Visualization supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 3 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate change vs. climate variability and patterns
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4c
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

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

  • Educators can have students download the data to graph in Excel.
  • Discuss the meaning of "temperature anomaly."
  • Use one graph to describe to students (or ask them) what a running 5-year average means and why that is used on these graphs to illustrate trends in the data.
  • Two graphs show the dramatic differences between latitudinal bands (the band between 23.6 to 90 degrees N has been warming much faster than the rest of the globe since the 1970s, which could lead to discussion of Arctic amplification from decreased albedo due to loss of sea ice) and hemispheres (Northern Hemisphere has been warming much faster than the Southern Hemisphere since about 1990, which could lead to discussion of the southern oceans as a heat sink).

About the Science

  • Series of seven graphs displays temperature changes during the period 1880 to the present and are updated monthly.
  • Differences in the graphs are readily seen based on the temperature datasets used, such as both land and ocean temperature inputs, as opposed to only land-based meteorological stations. Other graphs highlight the differences by latitudinal bands (northern, low, southern) and hemispheres (northern and southern).
  • One of the more interesting is the "Annual Mean Temperature Change for Three Latitude Bands" figure.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Graphs can be enlarged or downloaded as a PDF for closer study or for inclusion into reports.
  • Graphs are well labeled and accompanied by brief text. Students will need to understand terms such as "5-year running mean" and "anomaly."

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Graphs are also available as PDF, or Postscript, Also available are tabular data.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Static Visualization supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1


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

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

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

MS-P4.4:Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P5.1: Use digital tools (e.g., computers) to analyze very large data sets for patterns and trends.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

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: 1


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

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

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