Unit 3 - Anomalous Behavior
- Cognitive/Propositional: Provide an understanding of ocean-atmosphere interaction, including the mechanics of ENSO and NAO.
- Behavioral/Practical: Enable the prediction/projection of change in a system, analysis of real oceanographic data, and application of basic quantitative skills.
- Experiential: Provide opportunities for reflection on the nature of ocean surface oscillations and on the science that provides the basis for our understanding of these phenomena. Affectively engage in the impacts of ocean surface oscillations.
Unit 3 Learning Outcomes
- Lecture Instruction/Preparatory Reading
- Understand the mechanics of the El Niño Southern Oscillation.
- Diagram an El Niño event.
- Recall examples of how ocean surface oscillations impact ecosystems and people.
- Make connections between oscillation systems, the geologic record, and climate records.
- Case study 3.1
- Predict the local effects of La Niña based on the mechanics of El Niño.
- Create precipitation intensity maps for the three states of the El Niño Southern Oscillation.
- Predict the regional coastal effects of ENSO based on its mechanics.
- Consider the global effects of ENSO and its potential long-term impacts.
- Case study 3.2
- Read global sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly maps.
- Assess the state of the El Niño Southern Oscillation from SST anomaly maps.
- Create a timeline of changes in ENSO conditions.
- Assess the recurrence interval of the ENSO system.
Context for Use
This unit is designed to function as one day of instruction in an introductory geology, meteorology, geography, or environmental science class. The lecture is customizable for different teaching needs (see notes below) and the activities can be done in class, completed together as a lab, or completed as part(s) of a lab, depending on time and topical needs. As a standalone teaching collection, it communicates ENSO in lecture instruction, introduces La Niña based on the basic mechanics of El Niño, builds knowledge of ENSO precipitation patterns, and links ocean surface anomalies to coastal and global impacts. In the Climate of Change InTeGrate Module, it follows the exploration of Pacific and Atlantic Ocean surface data in Unit 2 and precedes analysis of the Greenland Ice Sheet and connections between the ocean surface and glaciers in Unit 4.
Description and Teaching Materials
Depending on time and depth of ENSO exploration in your curriculum, you can implement the lecture here as a traditional lecture, as a lecture with an activity, or as a preparatory reading (with or without notes) for in-class activities. As a lecture, it is designed both to be interactive and to convey information on ENSO. It is also designed to provide different angles of instruction for ENSO. (For example, you might not use all of the slides if you are teaching a course for which that information is too detailed.) The lecture notes contain suggestions on how to encourage interaction with the material and some figures are hyperlinked to helpful animations or videos.
I assume that during the initial explication of El Niño, you will diagram the process or show a video dynamically explaining it. If you choose to show a video instead of drawing El Niño by hand, you might choose the second part of this great set of videos (to which you could also direct your students to use for studying, since it is also a nice tutorial). This Portuguese video is also a good option, should you and/or your students understand Portuguese.
I designed the activities below to develop understanding of ENSO and guide reflection. You can implement them in class, in lab, or as homework. I recommend that you complete at least one in class if you assign one as homework, so the students have an understanding of how to complete the tasks.
Teaching Notes and Tips
Spending time telling the impact stories from the images in the lecture will open students' minds to the importance of understanding the oscillations and help them to remember how they work. (Links to these stories are provided in the lecture notes.) If time is short, it is more important to include some of these stories than it is to include much of the other lecture material.
Some students will find these processes difficult to comprehend.
- Assure them that these phenomena are not completely straightforward.
- Emphasize simple cause-effect and first principles relationships.
- Provide resources to students (videos, animation, and tutorials) to walk them through these processes in different ways.
The activities can be used formatively or summatively, although I recommend at least one be formative, so that students can develop their understanding, ask questions, and learn-by-trial in class with you and their peers. I conduct the activities as in-class group work, but they could be individual as long as students are provided enough reference material.
Summative assessment questions:
What is La Niña and why does it occur? Draw a diagram to illustrate your explanation and give an example of how La Niña has impacted people in a particular place and time.
Does this ocean surface anomaly map display El Niño, ENSO normal, or La Niña conditions and how do you know? Where will precipitation fall if these anomalous temperatures remain in place?×
ENSO can become part of the geologic record through
A. flooding that leaves behind sediment deposits.
B. flooding that scours away sediment deposits.
C. drought-induced fires, which leave behind burnt soils and sediments.
D. both A & C
E. no known means.
Of the following, all are components of ENSO except
A. sea surface temperature.
C. jet stream.
To provide an opportunity for students to reflect on what they have learned in Unit 3 (and Unit 2, as well, if that was done prior to Unit 3), at the end of this unit, ask students to write on an index card one thing that they feel they have learned in this unit, or that seems particularly clear, and one thing that still seems confusing, unclear, or incomplete. Collect the cards and use them to determine what aspects of the topic might need to be revisited in another class.
References and Resources
- videos & tutorial: El Niño (ENSO) Animation V1.25 (2009/3)
- animation: Idealized ENSO Simulation
- video (Portuguese): El Niño, La Niña
- Weather Explained Weather Almanac: El Niño & La Niña
- NOAA: El Niño
- NOAA CPC: El Niño - Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
- NOAA ESRL: El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
- tutorial: NOAA Ocean Explorer: El Niño
- IRI: Overview of the ENSO System
- USGS: Information on EL Niño