Tropical Cyclones and Global Change

Jenni Evans
The Pennsylvania State University
Author Profile


This is a full semester project focusing on tropical cyclones and climate change for my undergraduate tropical meteorology class. It consists of five parts, outlined below.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



Undergraduate elective course. Usually seniors, some graduate students and the occasional junior. All have had two semesters of dynamics. Unfortunately, few have had general circulation or climate classes.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

In addition to their prior classes, students have received a few weeks of lectures on tropical cyclogenesis, motion and intensity change and have done a number of forecasting labs to illustrate these concepts. However, the first brief term paper is written "cold" in the 2nd week of semester.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a 5-part semester long project.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The overarching goal is to inspire students towards continuing professional post-graduation education and to give them tools to employ in this endeavor. The content chosen for this is the impact of climate and climate change on tropical cyclone activity.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Encourage students to think critically about their science with the goal that they will critically assess the information presented based upon their professional training. The choice of this hotly and publicly debated topic provides ample motivation to engage them.
  • Develop the students' abilities to read and evaluate the scientific literature. Engender an awareness of the need for continuing professional education, even among those who intend to be practitioners and don't think of themselves as researchers.
  • Develop the students' awareness of data quality and data sampling issues.
  • Synthesize all of these tools through the individual data analysis project.
  • Synthesize the variety of knowledge gained via both the data analysis project and the final term paper.

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Create a variety of learning and teaching environments, where students help each other learn through group work (with group configurations changing for different subprojects).
  • Develop students' public speaking skills: this includes interactive classroom discussions, formal and informal presentations.
  • Develop students' writing skills through short opinion papers and a longer data project.

Description of the activity/assignment

The project has five components.
1. Initial short opinion paper
2. In-class exercises on data sampling, trend analysis, extrapolation, filtering and data quality
3. Group presentation (30 minutes plus questions) on a relevant journal article agreed with the instructor
4. Individual data analysis project on a topic agreed in advance with the instructor
5. Final opinion paper presenting their perspective on the topic. In contrast to the first opinion paper (which is very informal) students are expected to put this paper in context based on the class exercises and lectures during the course of the semester, as well as any relevant external materials.
Each of these steps is described in detail in the activity description file below.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Evaluation of student success is done through a variety of mechanisms, including two papers, a laboratory report, a term paper (in the format of a small journal article) and a group presentation. In addition, in-class discussions and group work interactions with peers provide further evidence of the effectiveness of this project in developing the students' abilities to evaluate and communicate new science in their field.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials