How Can Models Be Used To Study Climate Change?
Students utilize ice core data to develop a simple climate model, test it and then analyze, through reading IPCC materials, what other variables might need to be included in a model that more accurately predicts climate response to forcings. They are then asked to reflect on the use of models in scientific inquiry and on climate skeptics view of climate models.
1. provide the learner with the opportunity to apply and practice modeling and nature of science concepts (inductive and deductive reasoning) using an issue (global warming) that has relevance to their lives and that they hear a lot about in the media.This activity provides students opportunities to engage in data analysis, develop and apply models, and apply concepts in new contexts.
2. provide opportunities to practice using chemistry concepts in the context of greenhouse effect and global climate change.
3. foster understanding that scientific modeling is a means of making predictions about how a system, even a complex system, will change with a high degree of confidence.
4. provide insight into – and perspective on the nature of the debate about global climate change, and the degree to which arguments in the debate are scientific or not.
The activity addresses sustainability obliquely in that the issue of global climate change is directly related to our unsustainable use of fossil fuels.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
This lab activity is part of the inquiry-based curriculum from the Chemistry For The Informed Citizen project (NSF, Grant # DUE-0737551). As of Summer 2012 it is still in development and feedback is welcome. The curriculum focuses on students developing a small particle model of matter that relates macroscopic observations to sub-microscopic processes, and has a through-going strand that focuses on the use of models in scientific inquiry. Exploration of climate science and global climate change is one of the main topics used to develop understanding of both chemical concepts and scientific inquiry.
This activity asks students to:
1. Use the ice core data to develop a simple mathematical model of the relationship between atmospheric CO2 concentration and global average temperature.
2. Use the model to predict the average global temperature for a recent year for which there is data and then compare their result with actual values.
3. Assess the accuracy of the model and, using various resources from IPCC 4th Assessment Report (2007), analyze any shortcomings of their model and explore what other factors might need to be included in the model to improve its ability to explain climate variability.
4. Use their simple model to predict the value of global average temperature for predicted CO2 concentration levels at 2100 under one or more forecast scenarios.
5. Reflect on the effectiveness of models in predicting future climate in particular, and as a tool for scientific inquiry in general.
Climate Modeling Activity: Pre-Lab, Lab, Lab Homework (Microsoft Word 427kB Jul9 12)