Scientific logic: An application to meteorological observations
This quiz (which can be recast easily as a homework or in-class exercise) presents students with a typical weather map showing surface weather-station data plots and contours of constant sea-level pressure (isobars). It then poses a series of statements about weather patterns that might or might not be accepted generally by meteorologists based on many years of observations. (These can be interpreted as "hypotheses" about weather patterns.) Finally, for each statement, it asks students to decide whether the observations on the weather map
- prove the statement;
- confirm or support the statement well;
- clearly contradict or disprove the statement; or
- don't provide enough evidence to say one way or another.
To address the question successfully, students must first be able to read the weather map, then apply scientific logic to evaluate each general statement about weather patterns based solely on the evidence on the map.
- Although not an instructional activity as currently constructed, students could use this submission to practice applying conventions for reading observations reported on a typical surface weather map and discerning patterns in the observations.
- Although not an instructional activity as currently constructed, students could use it to learn about scientific logic applied to evidence, in the context of meteorological observations.
Context for Use
Students should have already learned about analyzing scalar fields using contour lines (in this case, isobars) and reading "weather-station models," the convention for coding and displaying weather observations at individual stations on a weather map. These are concepts typically covered in introductory meteorology classes.
The submission requires access to standard weather maps of the sort widely available on the Web.
Description and Teaching Materials
(Methods of instruction about reading weather maps are available elsewhere. Discussion about scientific evidence, including the difference between "proof" and "confirmation", for example, must occur before students tackle this exercise, of course.)
Quiz Question on the Logic of Scientific Evidence Applied to a Weather Map (Microsoft Word 75kB Jun30 09)
Teaching Notes and Tips
References and Resources
(There are many other, similar maps available. This one has an infrared satellite image superimposed on it as well as other data; simpler maps, without the satellite image, are widely available.)