Going Local with Global Warming

Overview

Big Idea

Climate change is local and global. Examine recent temperature data for local and regional areas and understand the significance of recent temperature records as evidence of a warming climate. Make climate change science more relevant to students through plotting and analyzing temperature data for their own local and regional areas.

Data Activity

Is the Climate Changing in My Region?

Summary

The majority of Americans do not believe that climate change will affect them personally. This module investigates evidence for contemporary climate change by examining multi-year weather and statistical and anecdotal records obtained from several localities in the U.S.

  • Plot and identify trends in regional weather data.
  • Learn the difference between weather and climate.
  • Explore the pedagogic advantages associated with learning about global climate change through examination of data obtained at the regional level.

Standards

This module is aligned to the following national learning and curriculum standards:

Objectives

In this module, you will:

  1. Manipulate data sets and visualizations while plotting and identifying trends in the data.
  2. Investigate how different regions of the Earth respond to changes in climate in different and unique ways.
  3. Explore the pedagogic importance of examining local or regional climate records as well as global data in building student understanding of the difference between weather and climate.

Keeping Notes

Set up a journal to take notes as you participate in this experience. Your journal can be an online tool or offline notebook – whichever works for you and your learning style.

Background information

Contemporary climate change is one of the few areas of inquiry where we cannot rely heavily on our senses to make sense of the world around us. Climate change takes place on spatial and temporal scales that are difficult to evaluate personally.

The effects of creeping climate change may take longer than a generation and changes in the Earth system can take place at orders of magnitude larger than what our sensory apparatus can deal with. In cultures that continue to have a rich oral tradition and where stories are passed from generation to generation, the experience of climate change is something that can be found in this oral history. In the western scientific tradition, changes in climate may be chronicled in diaries, memories, and notebooks of individuals who have experienced firsthand the changes of climate and weather within their own lifetimes. Where such data are available, we have a rich source of climate information that can corroborate instrumental measurements.

Because Earth’s surface is unequally sensitive to changes in climate, contemporary climate change may be imperceptible or only sensed by instruments in one part of the globe, while clearly impacting the lives of communities in another. Some regions have seen a sharp increase in temperature over the past decade, other regions have seen no change, or even experienced local cooling. A warmer atmosphere means adjustments to the Earth’s energy redistribution system through wind and water currents, which are ultimately responsible for meteorological conditions that generate weather.

In this module, you will have a chance to see how climate change affects local and regional areas of the United States, determining whether your own region is changing and if so, the degree to which this change is occurring. You will look at the historic temperature record for your regional area and compare it to temperature records from other parts of the globe. The data activity provides an opportunity to explore your understanding of the difference between weather and climate, and importantly, the degree to which regional weather observations can be construed as evidence for a changing climate.

NASA and PBS

This professional development experience was funded by NASA's Global Climate Change Education Initiative. This initiative is designed to improve the quality of the nation's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and enhance students' and teachers' literacy about global climate and Earth system change from elementary grades to lifelong learners.

Global Climate Change Modules

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