Using Real-Life Data to Understand Climate Change

Apr. 15, 2011 | 0 Comments | Math | 9-12 | Climate

Lesson Steps

Warm-up: Using a Data Table

1. Ask students to look over the table provided (as projection for entire class or provide Reproducible: Average Temperature Data to each student). Ask them to write down and compare their immediate observations.


Activity One: Analyzing the Data

1. Ask the students to answer the following questions while looking at the table:

a) Find the average temperature for each of the past four decades. What trend do you notice?

b) Find the mean, median, and mode of temperatures between 1970 and 2009. Do the data give evidence of global warming trends?

c) Plot a graph of the temperatures. Use this data to extend your graph out to the next ten years. What does your prediction show?


Activity Two: Finding Your Town on the Climate Index

  1. As a class, use a computer hooked up to a projector to access NASA’s climate index website. On the world map or the map of the US, click on the station closest to your hometown.

a) Compile the data from the last 25 years. You may download the data as text and/or view a GISTEMP graph of station temperature data.

b) Is it similar to or different from the data above?


Activity Three: Homework (optional)

  1. Have students find additional data set(s) from another NASA station or different source. You may have them calculate mean, median and mode or practice graphing skills by plotting data on a graph.


Wrap-Up:Putting It Together

1. As a follow-up discussion, pose the following questions to the students:

a) What are some possible causes of this recent increase in temperatures? Increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which trap more solar radiation in Earth’s atmosphere. Although climate variation has occurred throughout history, this recent sudden increase is likely linked to human actions and behaviors such as burning of fossil fuels, increased emissions, agriculture, reduced tree cover, etc.

b) What are some possible effects of climate change in the long run? Increased global temperatures will lead to new weather patterns, ice caps and glaciers will melt, ocean currents will alter, furthering climate changes; sea levels will rise, fresh water supplies will dry up, crops will be altered, plant and animals species will continue to become extinct, and degraded environmental conditions will be harmful to human health.

c) Why is it considered such a risk? This will change life on Earth as we know it and may cause it to be uninhabitable for humans and many other species. In addition to the changes above, other consequences could include: famine, spread of disease, greater competition for resources, harsher weather incidents, etc.

d) What can we do to combat global warming? Reduce fossil fuel and energy use, reduce emissions, plant trees, consume less, alternative transportation, etc.



At the end of this lesson, students should have strengthened their math and analysis skills and gained an understanding of how their work in math class can be applied to real life data and situations. In addition, they should understand the hazards posed by global climate change and some of the ways we are working to fight it.