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Exploring Regional Differences in Climate Change
http://serc.carleton.edu/eet/climate/index.html

Denise Blaha, Rita Freuder, Earth Exploration Toolbook from TERC

This teaching activity addresses regional variability as predicted in climate change models for the next century. Using real climatological data from climate models, students will obtain annual predictions for minimum temperature, maximum temperature, precipitation, and solar radiation for Minnesota and California to explore this regional variability. Students import the data into a spreadsheet application and analyze it to interpret regional differences. Finally, students download data for their state and compare them with other states to answer a series of questions about regional differences in climate change.

Activity takes up to four 45-minute class periods depending on how activity is used. Computer access is necessary.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate is determined by the long-term pattern of temperature and precipitation averages and extremes at a location. Climate descriptions can refer to areas that are local, regional, or global in extent. Climate can be described for different time intervals, such as decades, years, seasons, months, or specific dates of the year.
About Teaching Principle 4
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Climate change is a significant and persistent change in an area’s average climate conditions or their extremes. Seasonal variations and multi-year cycles (for example, the El Niño Southern Oscillation) that produce warm, cool, wet, or dry periods across different regions are a natural part of climate variability. They do not represent climate change.
About Teaching Principle 4
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Scientific observations indicate that global climate has changed in the past, is changing now, and will change in the future. The magnitude and direction of this change is not the same at all locations on Earth.
About Teaching Principle 4
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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
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

The earth has a variety of climates, defined by average temperature, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, and wind, over time in a particular place.
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The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
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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

  • Summary of regional impacts of climate change is weak and not very complete. Ideally the educator would do more research on these topics before teaching the lab so that they can guide students better in understanding the specific local effects of a changing climate.
  • A few guiding questions are suggested, but educator will have to develop additional assessment questions.
  • Questions that are given to guide the interpretation of the graphs should stress that the graphs are predictions of the future and, therefore, hypotheses and not facts.
  • Activity uses information from a model "black box," followed by a detailed, step-by-step instruction - educator has to make sure that the student learning of the content - regional variability of climate change - is achieved.
  • Summary of regional impacts of climate change is weak and not very complete. Ideally educator would do more research on these topics before teaching the lab.
  • Shortcut options: 1) Data is available on EET chapter website and does not necessarily need to be downloaded from EOS-Webster, 2) Go directly to Part 3 where the graphs are already presented with the analysis questions. However, to do the extension about the home-state, you need to access the EOS-Webster
  • Available professional development programs may be helpful in overcoming concerns about manipulation of large data sets.

About the Science

  • Activity uses data from a climate model to understand the regional variability of climate change in different US states (including their home state).
  • Students learn the application of Excel as a graphing tool to manage large data sets by using real climate data.
  • There is not enough information on the parameters that went into the model; a link is provided to background materials that indicate that the parameters that were used for the Canadian Climate Change model agree well with the IPCC model results, however, it would be better for an educator to have an overview of the exact parameters so that their validity could be discussed (especially if this activity will be used at the college-level).
  • Summary of regional impacts of climate change is weak and not very complete.
  • Very valuable to have students look at their home state because it makes climate change much more directly relevant.
  • Comment from scientist: There is much more uncertainty about regional climate changes and impacts compared to global changes. It is important that this be emphasized during the lessons.

About the Pedagogy

  • Well designed and well crafted with great guide for students and educators, clear guidance.
  • Weak analysis and assessment questions.
  • Step-by-step instruction doesn't foster creativity of the student.
  • Students that are not very tech-savvy might become lost in the materials and need good guidance.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Well designed activity with very clear screenshots that guide the user through the different steps.
  • Students need to be familiar with Excel.
  • There is an option of downloading the relevant data sets from the EET site without using the EOS -Webster interface, however the available data is comma-delimited (see instructions for import to Excel).

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