Research project to consider how projected climate change will impact a region of interest to the student

This activity was developed for the Teaching About Earth's Climate Using Data and Numerical Models workshop, held in October 2011.
Susan Kaspari
Central Washington University
Author Profile


Students consult the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chapters on climate projections and the primary scientific literature to write a research paper and present their results to the class focused on how projected changes in climate will affect an area or something that is of interest to them. The project is intended to better characterize to the students what climate change could mean to them, as most find a warming of x degrees (and other changes in climate) to be abstract.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



Upper level undergraduate or graduate in climate related course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Familiarity with how climate is projected to change by 2100 AD.

How the activity is situated in the course

Culminating research project and presentation


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Projected changes in climate (e.g., a 4°C temperature increase) is abstract to most students. By conducting individual research projects, students gain a more concrete understanding of how projected climate change will affect something of interest to them.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students synthesize how projected climate change will affect their chosen topic of interest, and in some cases evaluate how the impacts of projected climate change can be mitigated.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students gain experience writing a scientific style research paper and orally present their results

Description of the activity/assignment

Detailed information is provided in activity description/assignment and an example lab handout that assisted students in conducting their research.

Initial guidelines given to students:

Choose a location (where you are from, a place that is of interest to you) and investigate how projected changes in climate will affect that area. What are the expected changes in temperature, precipitation, storms, droughts, sea level, seasonality, etc? How will this affect the habitat of the area (for humans, animals, and plants)? How will this affect the local economy? What actions can the people that live in this area take to lessen the impacts of changing climate? Students write a scientific style paper on their findings, and present their research to the class in ~10 minute oral presentations (alternatively a poster session could be used).

Determining whether students have met the goals

See attached

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs