3.1: Your Temperature Connections
What is the pattern for the average temperature for Earth?
In Units 1 and 2 of Carbon Connections, you investigated carbon and climate in the past and present. You saw some ways that humans influence the carbon cycle. This is important because it relates to future climate. That is where you can be part of the solution to address climate change. But remember, it is not just you addressing this issue: It is you and thousands of students like you who will make a difference.
In Lesson 3.1, you will start with an activity that shows how scientists determine the Earth's temperature. Then, you will explore Earth's temperature over the past 120 years. With this global record, you can test factors that influence Earth's temperature. What you will learn in Lesson 3.1 includes:
For Lesson 3.1, use the lesson focus question to guide what you learn about carbon and climate.
Many times in science, you will use an average, or mean, to tell you about sets of measurements. An example is a batting average in baseball. Or, you might be watching your grade point average; it tells you about the kind of grades you are getting in school. In a similar way, scientists use temperature averages as a way to study Earth's climate. Understanding these averages will help you answer the focus question for Lesson 3.1.
Measuring Temperature Activity
Do the Measuring Temperature activity with your class. You will model how many climate stations are used to get a single, average temperature for Earth. You can learn more about networks and averages in the Grid Averages activity at the end of this lesson.
Materials per Team
Process and Procedure
Follow your teacher's instructions to set up the activity, and then do the steps below:
If you want to learn more about networks and averages, try The Grid Game
The Grid Game
Scientists use measurements from a network of climate stations to calculate a single value for Earth's temperature. Determining averages from grids shows you another way to model how scientists calculate the Earth's temperature. Rather than use thousands of climate stations, you can use an average from a grid of nine numbers.
When you click on each grid number, you will see a 3x3 group of numbers. Use the steps below for the grids.
Process and Procedure
|Grid #||Average for Grid||Change from Gird #1|
To learn about Earth's climate, scientists need to measure the Earth's temperature. But where would you measure Earth's temperature? You started thinking about this in step 6. If you measured at one place, such as the equator, then the temperature would be too hot to represent all of Earth. If you measured at the poles, the temperature would be too cold. Perhaps you could go halfway, to latitude 45°. But that would not work, because most land and continents are north of the equator. This also raises the question of whether to measure over land, ocean, or maybe both.
To address the issue of where to measure, scientists use measurements from many thousands of stations. These stations make a network that spans Earth. At each station, temperatures are measured whenever possible. Scientists use the daily data to calculate an average per month. Then for each month, the monthly averages for each station in the network are used for one global average. You calculated an average in a similar way in the Measuring Temperature activity.
In the case of these temperature data, a simple average does not work. Areas with many stations, such as the United States or Europe, would be overrepresented. This would give an offset, or bias, for areas that have many stations. Thus, scientists combine the data by regions so that the monthly mean for Earth is not biased toward areas with more stations. Because the stations cover all of Earth, the result is one value for all of Earth—the global average.
Watch the animation of global temperatures from 1880-2008. Notice that:
Global Temperature Animation
Watch the animation of global temperatures again, and then complete steps 7-9.
Global Temperature Record: NASA/GISS Scientists
Global Temperature Record: NASA/GISS Scientists & British Climate Scientists
The temperature data for Earth improved in the late 1970s for several reasons. First, the number of climate stations increased in the 1960s and 1970s. Second, a new generation of NASA satellites was launched in late 1978. One satellite looked at changes in radiation from the Sun. Another satellite was used to determine temperature of the lower atmosphere. These temperatures from satellites were an excellent way to test if the ground-based stations were accurate. Thus, data from the past 30 years (1979-2010) is the highest-quality data on Earth's climate.
Launch the Ta Explorer. Remember, the Ta stands for "temperature anomaly." You can use Ta Explorer to compare temperatures from different climate teams from 1979 through 2010. The data includes the ground-based stations, as well as satellite-based data. Be sure to "grab" the temperature records, and slide them up and down. This lets you compare and contrast the temperature from different research teams. You can also compare the ground-based data with the satellite-based data. This helps you see overall patterns of change in Earth's temperature.
Investigating Earth's temperature record raises an important question: What factors affect Earth's climate? In Lesson 3.2, you will get to test several factors. You will be like a scientist as you explore this question with the Carbon Connections Climate Model. By adjusting the factors in the climate model, you will get to test which factors can cause Earth's temperature to change.
If you are unable to see the interactive, click here to open it in a new tab.
To think about factors that affect Earth's temperature, do the steps below:
As you test the model, also notice the moving bar to the right of the graph. Before you start Lesson 3.2, see if you can determine what the red bar tells you.