InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Climate of Change > Unit 3: Anomalous Behavior > Case Study 3.2 - Exploring Patterns: ENSO on the Global Stage
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Case Study 3.2 - Exploring Patterns: ENSO on the Global Stage

Cynthia M. Fadem, Earlham College (fademcy@earlham.edu)
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This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
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This page first made public: Jun 24, 2014

Summary

I designed this activity to allow students who have become somewhat familiar with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation to explore the reality of ocean surface temperature data. Students analyze a time series of SST anomaly maps to create an ENSO timeline. You can implement this teaching collection as part of the Climate of Change InTeGrate Module, Unit 3, or as a stand alone activity.

Learning Goals

In this activity students will:

My goals in creating this activity were to:

Context for Use

Prior to the activity some discussion of ENSO will be necessary. If you are using the rest of Unit 3, no additional instruction is necessary.

For the second part of the the activity, students will need to know how or be taught to calculate recurrence intervals.

This activity takes roughly 35 minutes and can be used

Description and Teaching Materials

In this activity students analyze data maps of SST anomaly for early December of 1997 to 2011 (1 per 2 yrs) and create an ENSO time line. Not all of the maps are straightforward with regard to oscillation expression, so you should be prepared to counsel students on how to make sense of real ocean data. (See below for tips.) This exercise allows them to synthesize what they have learned and evaluate global ocean surface data.

Questions embedded in the activity ask them to reflect on their findings and the nature of ocean-atmosphere systems. Many of the responses will vary in both correctness and insight. Depending on the rest of your course material and students' experiences, you will have to gauge acceptability of some responses; so the instructor's notes are simply a guide and not a key.

The display version of the time series of SST maps is available in case you cannot print student assignments in color.

There are further opportunities for reflection and synthesis if you complete both Unit 3 activities, as students will be able to compare the real ENSO maps from this activity with their predictions from Case Study 3.1.

Materials:

Case Study 3.2 Display
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Display:



Teaching Notes and Tips

Students may be overwhelmed by the number of images and the complexity of the real data in the activity.

Assessment

You can use this activity formatively or summatively, but I recommend using it formatively if you are using only one of the Unit 3 activities. You can develop exam questions to assess this activity directly from the learning outcomes.

References and Resources

ENSO
Atmospheric circulation and jet stream

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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »