For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Climate of Change Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
Unit 2 Study Guide: Practice Deciphering Maps
How to Look at Data
In examining graphs, charts, or maps that contain a lot of information, such as the TAO/TRITON data maps, there are a few strategies you might use to help you decipher the most important information presented in the figure:
- Look at the axis labels first! These will help orient you. If you are looking at a graph, they will tell you what data you are viewing. If your axis labels are latitude and longitude, they will tell you what part of the world you are looking at.
- If you are looking at a map, the data are usually contoured, and there will be a label at or near the top of the map to tell you what you are looking at (e.g., "Sea Surface Temperature").
- On a map, once you know what type of data you have, identify the locations with the highest and lowest values. Be sure you can name a geographical location where these occur, so that you could describe these data to someone else, if you had to (e.g., "Equatorial Western Pacific," or "Indonesia").
- After identifying the highs and lows in data values, see if you can identify any patterns in the data. For example, do all the high values occur over land, and low values over the ocean? Or perhaps all the high values occur north of the equator, and all the low values occur south of the equator?
- After you have enough time to study what the map or figure is presenting to you, take some time to think about why you see the patterns you do in the data. This is where you become a scientist and develop hypotheses!
This study guide below provides more opportunities to test your understanding of some of the concepts you have learned, as well as your ability to decipher new data and practice new vocabulary. Use this guide to help organize your knowledge. Test yourself by quizzing yourself on the terms with the definitions hidden below and by answering the concept questions.
New Vocabulary or Terminology
- latitude vs longitude
- hovmöller diagram
- What type of information is provided to you in Figure 2? How much time is represented on the y-axis? What is on the x-axis of each panel in the figure? What is the advantage of presenting information this way?
- In examining data over a number of years, what connections do we see between sea surface temperature and precipitation anomalies?
- If we see anomalies in sea surface temperature, why do we also tend to see anomalies in pressure and precipitation? (Note, simply saying "they are related to each other" is not a sufficient answer. Why are they related to each other?)
- What regions are impacted the most by cyclic changes in temperature and precipitation in the tropical Pacific?
- Thinking back to the article you read in Unit 1, if the people of the Andes find that their view of the constellation Pleiades is obscured when they look to the west, what implications do you think this has for precipitation and temperature in the ocean just off the coast of South America? Explain your answer.