What drives the global climate? The relationship between Latitude, Insolation, and Temperature
I will demo how we use both analog (photography) and digital (Pasco) lab meters with lamp and protractor. Then I will assign participants different latitudes and give them links to climate data websites and have them find locations at each latitude using Google Earth (or Google Maps) and the average annual temperature at each. I will gather the data in the chat (or better yet, with a shared google sheet) and will show them how my students can then graph the data.
1st we simulate the amount of solar energy striking the surface of the Earth (insolation) using artificial light source, light meter, and protractor. Light striking meter directly (perpendicularly)=equator, meter 90degrees from light source=poles. Next, students research average annual temperature from several locations (near sea level) at equator and every 5degrees (usually 2 places N and 1 S of equator or more). Students graph all 3 paired sets of data: Latitude v. Insolation, Latitude vs. Temperature, Insolation vs. Temperature on linear and log scales and can use curve-fitting algorithm to determine best-fit equation. Can do regression analysis (with college students). The outcomes are: 1. Students understand through direct measurement and research the primary cause of atmospheric circulation patterns and distribution of biomes; 2. Students experience how a global phenomenon can be simulated in the lab; 3. Students explore geography with Google Earth and how to find climate data; 4. Students gain experience making and interpreting bivariate graphs and discuss correlation vs. causation.
I teach a 2 month climatology unit after biomes and before C cycle and climate change. This is one of the main labs I use. Students also demo convection and Coriolis effect as part of the unit.
Why It Works
It is effective for the reasons I wrote above. I have never seen a similar lab activity on this topic that integrates data students collect in lab simulation with real climate data from all over the world. Teaching climatology is important, but it is difficult to create real hands-on labs, so many teachers avoid going into depth for fear of boring students.