A Compilation of Atmospheric and Climate Science Misconceptions

Wednesday 1:50 PT / 2:50 MT / 3:50 CT / 4:50 ET Online


Dawn Kopacz, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Haeli Leighty, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Misconceptions, incorrect or partially correct ideas, can impede the learning process. Therefore, knowledge of existing misconceptions is a critical component of teaching and learning. Project 2061 documented more than 80 weather and climate misconceptions held by middle and high school students, but this tool is not well-known to college instructors. Furthermore, studies of misconceptions related to the atmospheric and climate sciences are scattered across multiple journals making it difficult for educators and education researchers to access this information. As a result, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Community Framework for Geoscience Education Research (GER) called for a literature review to identify misconceptions in weather and climate science, as well as the populations that hold them (Cervato et al. 2018).

In response to this call for research, a total of 212 journal articles were reviewed to identify misconceptions held by students and teachers in the topics of weather, climate and climate change. The goal of this project is to categorize the misconceptions by topic and demographic group, and to identify common misconceptions. Thus far, we have identified 188 climate change misconceptions, nearly a third of which are related to the causes of global warming. Of the 146 weather misconceptions identified, nearly 60% were related to atmospheric composition, and nearly 65% of the 96 climate misconceptions were related to the greenhouse effect. Approximately 70% of the climate change misconceptions were identified by a single research study, with teachers holding 27% of the climate change misconceptions. Further categorization of the weather and climate misconceptions is ongoing.

Cervato, C., D. Charlevoix, and A. Gold, 2018: Research on Students' Conceptual Understanding of Environmental, Oceanic, Atmospheric, and Climate Science Content. Community Framework for Geoscience Education Research, K. St. John, Ed., National Association of Geoscience Teachers, 17–34.

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