Climate Modeling

This activity was developed for the Teaching About Earth's Climate Using Data and Numerical Models workshop, held in October 2011.
Caroline Davies
University of Missouri Kansas City

Author Profile

This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.


This activity provides a simple conceptual demonstration of models, using several types of real proxy data (isotope, or climate parameters, biotic), to model several different scales of change. It also involves being able to change and increasing number of parameters so students can manipulate inputs and outputs.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



The conceptual demonstration could be introduced in lecture, with developing or manipulating data for lab or independent work time or groups can be assigned specific variables to manipulate (e.g. the jigsaw method), combined with researching their assigned proxy.

After the independent work has been completed, the class reconvenes as a group to discuss changes in model, observations, comparisons with actual records, biases in data, sources of potential error, how the public will interpret outputs and scientific interpretation (this is a very important aspect in light of the disconnect between the science of climate modeling and level of public discourse on climate change! Assess students using the "can you explain your model to you grandmother?" test.)

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

  • Students develop their concept of systems, Earth systems, closed and open systems, model structure
  • Students improve their basic Excel usage, including setting up tables, creating charts, changing variables, and basic statistics available in Excel.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity can be situated in different ways/times depending on the class (Quaternary Environments, Global Change, Evolution), level of the class and experience of students in a given semester. I change these around frequently so each class is never the same.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Determining whether students have met the goals

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials