Welcome to APES‎ > ‎Env. Quality‎ > ‎

Climate Change Data Activity

Lab:  Looking at Scientific Data on Climate Change    Names: 

From Marie W. Lieberman, Ravenscroft Middle School

Objective: To look at sources for climate data.

To evaluate data from those sources concerning global climate change. 

Background:  Data on climate change comes from a variety of sources. In this country, data is collected by NASA satellites, NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) observations, the NCDC (National Climatic Data Center) which is run by NOAA, educational institutions and a number of independent labs.  Internationally, much of this data is pooled by the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an agency under the auspices of the UN and World Meterological Association.  The IPCC writes a summary report every few years on climate change.  The last major report by this body of about 2000 scientists came out in 2007 and won the Nobel Peace prize.   As with all environmental data, people evaluating the data have different biases.  In this lab, you will look at the data yourself.



1.   Go to the NASA site GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) Surface Temperature Analysis at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/ <http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/>.  The Goddard Space Center is the NASA center that is involved in Earth Science research.

2.   On the right hand side, click on Graphs (The link is above the top graph.).  To understand the graphs, you must first understand the word "anomaly".  This means difference from the norm.  For NASA graphs, the norm is the period from 1951‑1980 (which is when NASA began collecting data).

3.   The first graph shows a comparison of 2009 to the two other warmest years.  Looking at the global data, how does 2009 compare to the two other warmest years? Explain. 


4.   Next, look at the graph of global mean surface air temperature change from 1880 to present.  Again the anomalies are compared to the data from 1951‑1980.   What is the general trend?  Explain. 


5.   Now, look at the data from traditional meteorological stations.  Is the trend the same or different?  Explain.


a. Uncertainty limits (95% certainty limits) are shown in green, does the trend still hold when uncertainty is taken into account? Explain. 


6.   Now look at the Annual Mean Temperature Change for Hemispheres.  What is the climate trend?  How does it differ for the different hemispheres?


7.     Now look at seasonal mean temperature change.  What is the climate trend? Explain.


8.      back to http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/ <http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/>  and now click on Global Maps.  Set you map type to anomalies.  Month December Date 2009 to 2009.  This will give you the most recent map.  Click make map.  Look at the map and the graph below it.

a. What latitudes show the greatest temperature increases?


b. What latitudes show temperature declines?


c.  Recent cold trends in the US have been used as evidence that there is "no global warming" trend.  Looking at the data on this chart, would this argument hold for global data?  Explain. 


9.     Now go to NASA's web page http://climate.nasa.gov/ <http://climate.nasa.gov/>  and click on the Climate Change Time Machine on the right.  You will click on the different categories and note what changes can be seen.  Indicate changes for each variable below:

a. Sea Ice


b. Sea Level (Note particularly the effects on NC, La, and Fl.)


c.  Climate Emissions (What areas have increasing emissions, declining emissions, or stay the same.)


d. Average global temperatures


10.   Now look at the vital signs of the planet (top of the page).   Describe each.  The pull down menu helps.

a. Arctic Sea Ice


b. Carbon Dioxide


c.  Sea Level


d. Global Temperature


e. Ozone Hole



1.     Go to the website http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/paleolast.html <http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/paleolast.html>  and read the Summary of Proxy Temperature Studies.  Summarize the findings.


2.     Now go to http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/end.html <http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/end.html> .  Read the summary of their findings.

a. What natural factors does NOAA say contribute to climate change?


b. What percent of global temperature rise does NOAA attribute to greenhouse gas increases?


3.     Now go the the NOAA Global  Warming Page with frequently Asked Questions.  http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/end.html <http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/end.html>.  Look at the questions.  Choose one you would like to find the answer to. 

Write the question:


Write a short summary of the answer.


IPCC Data All data is from Climate Change 2007‑ Fourth Annual Assessment Report

1.     Go to the figure at: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch1s1‑3‑2.html <http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch1s1‑3‑2.html> .  What do the different models from IPCC say about the general trend of temperature changes over time? 


a. How many models are included in the report? 


2.     Go to the Summary for Policymakers (SPM). At http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment‑report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf <http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment‑report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf> .  This is the least technical of the IPCC reports, but it is still peer‑reviewed science and fairly technical.   Flip through the report to SPM 1.  What does it tell you?


a. Now look at Figure SPM3.  What is the trend in greenhouse gases?


b. Also from SPM3, What are the major green house gases and what are the most important sources of these gases?


c.  Look at SPM 4.  What does it indicate?


d. Look at SPM 6.  What does this map indicate about temperature changes for the late 21st century?


e. Look at SPM 7.  What are 10 potential changes associated with global warming?


f.  Look at Table SPM4.  List 5 ways that we could mitigate (make less harmful) the effects of  increasing GHGs (greenhouse gases). 


Overall Summary

1.     Based on data from NASA, NOAA, and IPCC, is there evidence of global warming? Explain.


2.     Do you believe human activity has an effect on global temperatures?  Explain.


3.     Suggest three solutions to avoid further affects of anthropogenic