Activity takes about two to three hours. Access to a computer lab is required.
In this activity, students create graphs of real temperature data to analyze climate trends by analyzing the global temperature record from 1867 to the present. Long-term trends and shorter-term fluctuations are both evaluated. The data is examined for evidence of the impact of natural and anthropogenic climate forcing mechanisms on the global surface temperature variability. Students are prompted to determine the difficulties scientists face in using this data to make climate predictions.
Goals by activity author:
Introduce students to:
- Natural climate variability (volcanoes, El Nino);
- Climate trends;
- Climate predictability;
- Regional climate variations.
- Teach students how to describe and interpret graphical information.
- Explore the significance of global climate change patterns to a student's local region.
- Introduce students to the difficulties encountered in trying to extrapolate recent temperature trends into the future, and the need for models to make reasoned predictions of temperature change.
ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION AND TEACHING MATERIALS
Explore this exercise >> Global Temperatures
TEACHING NOTES / CONTEXT FOR USE
Teaching Notes / Context For Use by CLEAN Reviewers:
- It is recommended that educator do a dry run with the data first to understand it well.
- It may be helpful to break the activities up with some in-class discussion instead of requiring the students to do all the activities at once. This will also likely increase student engagement in what could become a very monotonous set of assignments.
About the Science
- The data only covers years until 2002. This can be updated by the educator by using GISS temperatures, which are available monthly.
- CO2 plots in the activity are a bit out of date. Using more recent data is important to address the lesser trend since the late 1990s, and discussing long-term trends vs. natural variability that can affect climate over periods of several years.
- Allows for comparison of several variables and time periods. Students assess climate trends on several time scales, including decadal, interannual, and seasonal.
About the Pedagogy
- Students use real data to show long-term temperature trends based on scientific data.
- Strong critical thinking questions based on data and graphs.
- Complex, multi-step activity guides students through various types of data.
- Educator will need to assist students through the spreadsheet process.
- A guide to the data is not included, so educator needs to be comfortable and familiar with the data.
This resource engages students in using scientific data.
See other data-rich activities
Technical Details/Ease of Use
- Requires familiarity with Excel.
- Activity includes all links to data and maps.
Assessment by activity author:
Online teaching materials contain student activities that can help promote student learning. These activities can also be used to help assess student understanding of key idea and concepts.
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
- The Globally-Averaged Temperature Lab provides good documentation for references and additional reading.
Other relevant links include:
Description by the activity author: Students analyze the global temperature record from 1867 to the present. Long-term trends and shorter-term fluctuations are both evaluated. The data is examined for evidence of the impact of natural and anthropogenic climate forcing mechanisms on the global surface temperature variability