El Nino Southern Oscillation
This is a lab activity done in class (equipped with computers) and taught by TA's. The lab section is 2.5 hours, but this activity does not take that entire time period.
This lab activity is part of a lower division GE course, which consists of mostly freshmen and sophomores, with very few science majors. There are no prerequisites for the course.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
This lab, and the topic of ENSO in general, comes after labs and lectures on atmospheric circulation and ocean circulation. By this point in the course the students should have a good understanding about how density differences drive motion in both the atmosphere and ocean.
How the activity is situated in the course
This is a lab activity. Although it is not part of a particular series, the students have already done activities relating density to vertical motion in the atmosphere and ocean, and surface ocean circulation.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- Vertical structure in the water column (mixed layer, thermocline).
- Changes in vertical structure driven by wind
- El Nino vs. La Nina events
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- Connecting sea surface temperature to atmospheric temperature, density, vertical motion, and therefore atmospheric circulation
- Connecting the depth of the thermocline to nutrient content and therefore to primary productivity in the ocean
Other skills goals for this activity
- Interpretation of figures
- Plotting data in excel.
Description and Teaching Materials
El Nino Southern Oscillation (Acrobat (PDF) 217kB Jun9 13)