Teaching Notes

Grade Level

Example Output
Daily temperature data for Barrow, Alaska for 1946. Data from NCDC GSOD.
This chapter is most appropriate for students in grades 7-14.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:

  • Search for, request, and download weather station data from NCDC/NOAA.
  • Manipulate data in a spreadsheet to produce graphs.
  • Analyze graphs to interpret differences in climate temperatures in at least two locations.
  • Compare multiple sets of time series data (daily or annual).
  • Use equations in a spreadsheet to convert degrees Centigrade to degrees Fahrenheit.


This chapter introduces tools and techniques for examining temperature patterns for locations around the world, and for comparing these patterns to regional and global trends. Students investigate how local trends compare with regional and global trends. Two key questions that guide the chapter are, "Do patterns in some areas more closely match global patterns?" and "Do some areas serve as indicators of future global trends?"

The tool used for this analysis is Microsoft Excel. The data manipulation techniques in this chapter represent common skills used in business, accounting and finance, sales and marketing, science, engineering, and health care.

Background Information

Instructional Strategies

This chapter uses data from two specific weather stations. Students may want to know how these areas compare to the place where they live. The closest weather station may not be part of the Historic Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN), or may too far away to accurately reflect local conditions. Discuss what weather station data is available (see the station list) and why it may or may not fit local weather.

It may help to work in small groups with each group assigned a particular state or U.S. region. This would facilitate greater coverage of the entire United States and could team novices with more experienced computer users.

Learning Contexts

Consider combining this investigation with a geography unit where the data are compared with data from stations outside the United States. Compared data from the past 100 years with models of future temperature trends. For ideas, see the EET chapter Exploring Regional Climate Change. Extreme events such as volcanic eruptions can affect weather for years to decades. Look into temperature or precipitation data in the years following one of these events and compare it to the long-term average. This might be made more interesting by looking at seasonal averages; for example, were the winters warmer or the summers wetter?

Science Standards

The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:

8ASI1.3 Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. The use of tools and techniques, including mathematics, will be guided by the question asked and the investigations students design. The use of computers for the collection, summary, and display of evidence is part of this standard. Students should be able to access, gather, store, retrieve, and organize data, using hardware and software designed for these purposes.

12ASI1.3 Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications. A variety of technologies, such as hand tools, measuring instruments, and calculators, should be an integral component of scientific investigations. The use of computers for the collection, analysis, and display of data is also a part of this standard. Mathematics plays an essential role in all aspects of an inquiry. For example, measurement is used for posing questions, formulas are used for developing explanations, and charts and graphs are used for communicating results.

12ASI2.3 Scientists rely on technology to enhance the gathering and manipulation of data. New techniques and tools provide new evidence to guide inquiry and new methods to gather data, thereby contributing to the advance of science. The accuracy and precision of the data, and therefore the quality of the exploration, depends on the technology used.

Geography Standards

The following U.S. National Geography Standards are supported by this chapter:


Other Standards


Time Required


Other Resources

GSOD Station list, data format and data used in this chapter.

GSOD_station_list.txt ( 2.9MB Jan20 11) Over 9000 stations globally.
GSOD_data_description.txt ( 15kB Jan20 11) format and units of variables
BarrowGSOD.txt ( 3.2MB Jan18 11) full data file for all years at Barrow.

Global Surface Network station list, data format and data files used in this chapter.

GSN_station_list.txt ( 36kB Jan20 11) Over 9000 stations globally.
GSN_monthly_data_documentation.txt ( 2kB Jan12 11) format and units of variables
BarrowGSN.txt (Text File 121kB Jan12 11) full data file for all years at Barrow.

Excel Files at progressive stages of Parts 2, 3, and 4.

Barrow GSOD data at the end of Part 2, Step 2.
barrow_part2_step2.xls (Excel 7.4MB May30 11)
Barrow GSOD data at the end of Part 2.
barrow_part2_final.xls ( 4.5MB Jan17 11)


Barrow GSN data at the end of Part 3, Step 1.
barrowgsn_part3_step1.xls ( 314kB Jan12 11) 
Barrow GSN data at the end of Part 3, Step 2.
barrowgsn_part3_step2.xls ( 405kB Jan12 11)


Key West and Barrow GSOD data at the end of Part 4, Step 1.
keywest-GSOD.xls ( 4.4MB Jan17 11) 
Text file of Key West GSN data used in Part 4, Step2. 
keywestgsn.txt ( 69kB Jan18 11) 
Key West GSN data at the end of Part 4, Step 2.
keywestgsn_part4_final.xls ( 294kB Jan17 11)