Terms to Know

Wave frequency explained
Wave Frequency going from high frequency on the left to low frequency on the right.  See discussion on this page

Learning standards met cumulative nature of scientific evidence (an accumulation of weather becomes climate), number sense (averages of weather to get climate), weather maps, mechanisms of atmospheric change, causes of severe weather, development and dynamics of climate change (greenhouse gasses), weather and climate involve exchange of heat energy


Climate is different from weather. Climate is the long-term average of a region's weather, measured over many decades. Climate changes slowly under natural conditions. Weather changes from day to day. A mathematical average of yearly weather for 30 years at a time, done several times, gives climate.

Weather is the day to day and sometimes hourly changes in wind direction, cloud cover, temperature, air pressure, and humidity that occur. The weather is usually predictable a few days out, based on movement of the jet stream and high and low air pressure zones. The weather is caused by the Earth's daily rotation, waves in the atmosphere, and the interactions between the land, ocean, and atmosphere.

Climate, on the other hand, is a long term accumulation of the averages of several 30 year periods. It normally changes slowly with fluctuations in the sun's output or changes in the Earth's tilt.

Example/ Practice Get weather data from an almanac or weather system. Divide the weather data into as many 30 year segments as you can, and get the average for each 30 year period or part of a 30 year period. Average these averages together and you have a snapshot of the climate.

Learn more http://climate.noaa.gov/index.jsp?pg=/education/edu_index.jsp&edu=literacy

This is NOAA’s climate program office page discussing briefly climate literacy brochure with links to get the brochure. Suitable for high school or teachers

http://www.climate.noaa.gov/education More NOAA information on climate, including the roles of different offices. A good place to start for teachers and high school students.

http://www.globalchange.gov/resources/educators/climate-literacy A link to an interagency portal recognizing the importance of climate literacy with links to the climate literacy brochure. Follow links on the top bar resources, what's new and publication

http://weather.myfoxtampabay.com/maps/WTVT/custom/models/gfs.html is a link to the global Forecast System that has computer models of tropical depressions and hurricanes. This is a mathematical model run by NOAA 

Example/Practice: Find a web site with weather maps for the Washington Area which includes Front Royal, Winchester, Baltimore, and Annapolis. Keep track of which areas have higher temperatures from week to week through the year. Does one area have both warmer summers and colder winters than others? Does one area seem cooler or warmer? Does one area consistently get more precipitation than other areas? Are there geographic features that might explain you data?

Climate change is a change in the long-term ( 90 -100 years ) patterns of weather. These changes can happen with changes in the sun's energy, as well as pollution from natural and human made sources such as volcanoes and biomass burning. Scientists think the average temperature of the Earth will continue to rise over the next 100 years even if we stopped our impact on the atmosphere today. This is because of greenhouse gasses that have a long life in the atmosphere.

Earth's climate has changed throughout time, but the speed at which the Earth's climate is changing now will make it difficult for plants and animals, including us, to adapt. During the Ice Age (18,000 years ago), glaciers a mile or more thick covered most of North America, and the average temperature of the Earth was only 7 degrees F lower than it is today. So a few degrees can make a big difference!

Learn more: http://climate.nasa.gov/ is NASA's climate page with links to details, solutions, causes, and effects. A top bar has Earth's vital signs including temperature, carbon dioxide, and other indicators. A good place for students and teachers to begin to understand the complexity of Earth's climate. Also, a good source for NASA's role in monitoring Earth to see how the data is obtained and used. Go here after using weather equipment and compare technologies. The climate time machine link on the left column is an eye opener for many changes. There is also a link on the left column to Climate Kids. This is a great site to start with.

http://www.globalchange.gov/ Global Change Office of impacts of climate change, with links to images, publications, and news.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ice/chill.html a NOVA site on glacial causes. Good for middle and high school

Global warming is a specific type of climate change on a global, not just regional scale. Global warming is an increase in the Earth's temperature, which leads to large scale, long term change, such as changes in rainfall patterns, ice caps, and other changes which impact plants, animals, and people.

Warmer water, like that caused by global warming, would hold less oxygen. There are already areas of the watershed that lose all oxygen in summer. These would become more extensive and the low oxygen levels would last longer. As wetlands are lost to flooding, filtration needed to keep the water livable will be decreased, so some sessile species such as oysters will be asphyxiated.

Learn more: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/plant-decline.html Another NASA site with links to climate change and other NASA projects.

http://climate.nasa.gov/ and click on climate time machine. A look at how global warming will impact different Earth features. Good for high school and teachers. Click on key indicators and impacts in the left hand column.

http://www.webrangers.us/activities/global_connect/ The National Park Service site for kids that talks about climate change and the impact on natural features of our Earth. Something to learn for all ages.

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/grnhse.html A great site from Georgia State University for detailed and illustrated explanations of global warming, greenhouse effect, and the gasses involved. This is a very good site for high school and teachers but some of the middle school students should be able to follow the examples given as well. Has documentation such as the Keeling curve and explains the physics in plain English. This is a great site to start with.

https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs102-98/ is a site that is specific to the situation of the Chesapeake Bay where water levels are rising at a faster rate than the oceans.

Effects on wildlife and habitat

http://www.nwf.org/Global-Warming/Effects-on-Wildlife-and-Habitat.aspx National Wildlife Federation page that focus on the impact of global warming on wildlife. Good for high school

http://www.nwf.org/Global-Warming/Effects-on-Wildlife-and-Habitat/Estuaries-and-Coastal-Wetlands/Chesapeake-Bay.aspx Another National Wildlife Federation page but with specific information on the Chesapeake Bay. Very good information and suitable for high school.

http://www.nwf.org/Global-Warming/Effects-on-Wildlife-and-Habitat/Estuaries-and-Coastal-Wetlands/~/media/PDFs/Global%20Warming/Reports/NWF_ChesapeakeReportFINAL12pg.ashx National Wildlife Federation site on impact of rising sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay on wildlife refuges.

http://www.fws.gov/slamm/ U. S. Fish and Wildlife page showing the impact of rising sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay refuges and wetlands. This is also a link to the Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/effects/maps/cb.gif has a map showing impact on the Chesapeake Bay from different levels of sea level rise.

Challenge to get students thinking scientifically:

http://www.virginiaplaces.org/chesbay/chesgeo.html Geology and water levels come together in a paradox. The Chesapeake Bay is rising faster than the ocean, and it is rising faster at the mouth of the Bay than further up the Bay. What is behind this? This site provides a possible answer. Maps showing impacts of the rising sea level.

The greenhouse effect is a term used to describe the warming of the Earth caused by "greenhouse" gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor. These build up in the atmosphere. These trap energy from the sun inside the Earth's atmosphere the way glass does in a greenhouse. This is one way the Earth gets warmer. As the oceans warm, they release more water vapor increasing the effect. The Earth has warmed by about 1 degree F over the past 100 years. Some of this warming could be natural, but most scientists believe much of the warming is related to increased release of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gasses that have been shown to increase the temperature of the planet.

Learn more: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/index.html An EPA site that explains which gasses are greenhouse gasses. Good for middle school and up.

http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/earthguide/diagrams/greenhouse/ An animation of greenhouse effect without much reading. Well done by University of California

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/grnhse.html A good site from Georgia State University for detailed and illustrated explanations of global warming, greenhouse effect and the gasses involved. This is a very good site for high school and teachers, but some of the middle school students should be able to follow the examples given as well. Has documentation such as the Keeling curve and explains the physics in plain English. This is a great site to start with

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide produced by people or their activities. Burning fossil fuels, like coal and gasoline, produces carbon dioxide. In many countries they set fire to agricultural fields to clear them for the next crop. Cooking grills, fire places, stoves that burn plant based fuels all contribute to not just air pollution, but our collective carbon footprint. Warming tundra, drying wetlands, wildfires, are also sources of carbon that people have control over to some extent.

The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may impact marine animals as well. The waves and storms common to the ocean mix atmospheric gasses into the water. An increase in carbon dioxide diffused into the ocean would make it more acidic, impacting all life, but especially those with calcium carbonate shells such as clams and abalone.

Learn more:

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html An EPA site on emissions with a carbon footprint quiz for adults.

There are many web sites for calculating carbon footprint. They differ but none seem suited to kids.

Frequency is the distance between wave peaks in a wave. The closer the peaks, the higher the frequency. In the picture on this page the waves are close together on the left. They occur more frequently each second than those on the right. (see drawing on this page) Think of volume or amplitude as the Y axis and time as the X axis. The taller the waves, the louder the sound in the case of sound waves. The further apart the crests of the waves on the X axis, the lower the frequency.

Using different frequencies of solar radiation, allows scientists to peer through clouds and other cover to see what is hidden from our normal vision. This is one way we can look to see changes in the Earth that might be caused by global warming. This is how we found the polar ice caps were melting and scientists can monitor plant cover and other changes in the life on Earth.

The following is taken from the book "Earth from Above" by Dr. Claire Parkinson of Goddard Space Flight Center.

Each type of radiation has its own advantages and disadvantages in exploring the Earth. Satellites circle the Earth with different sensors to detect different light frequencies and give us a more complete picture than we would get just flying over in a plane. We can, using the appropriate frequency, look through clouds to see sea ice, measure ozone, and plot stress in vegetation.( Earth from Above, Using Color Coded Satellite Images to Examine the Global Environment, Claire L. Parkinson, University Science Books, Sausalito, CA1997 ISBN 0-935702-41-5.This is a must have for Earth and ecology science teachers.)


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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