Hurricanes-Climate Change Connection > Classroom Activities > Tropical Cyclones and Global Change

Tropical Cyclones and Global Change

Jenni Evans
The Pennsylvania State University
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This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see

This page first made public: Oct 31, 2008


This is a full semester project focusing on tropical cyclones and climate change for my undergraduate tropical meteorology class. It consists of five parts, outlined below.

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Undergraduate elective course. Usually seniors, some graduate students and the occasional junior. All have had two semesters of dynamics. Unfortunately, few have had general circulation or climate classes.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

In addition to their prior classes, students have received a few weeks of lectures on tropical cyclogenesis, motion and intensity change and have done a number of forecasting labs to illustrate these concepts. However, the first brief term paper is written "cold" in the 2nd week of semester.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a 5-part semester long project.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The overarching goal is to inspire students towards continuing professional post-graduation education and to give them tools to employ in this endeavor. The content chosen for this is the impact of climate and climate change on tropical cyclone activity.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

The project has five components.
1. Initial short opinion paper
2. In-class exercises on data sampling, trend analysis, extrapolation, filtering and data quality
3. Group presentation (30 minutes plus questions) on a relevant journal article agreed with the instructor
4. Individual data analysis project on a topic agreed in advance with the instructor
5. Final opinion paper presenting their perspective on the topic. In contrast to the first opinion paper (which is very informal) students are expected to put this paper in context based on the class exercises and lectures during the course of the semester, as well as any relevant external materials.
Each of these steps is described in detail in the activity description file below.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Evaluation of student success is done through a variety of mechanisms, including two papers, a laboratory report, a term paper (in the format of a small journal article) and a group presentation. In addition, in-class discussions and group work interactions with peers provide further evidence of the effectiveness of this project in developing the students' abilities to evaluate and communicate new science in their field.

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