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Unit 2: After the Storm

Introduction

Geoscientists use data that include spatial and temporal context. In other words, the data have particular locations and times associated with them, and the distribution of those data in space and time are critical to their interpretation. You may not have worked with this kind of data before, so this unit will give you the opportunity to explore geoscience data in order to develop your geoscientific thinking skills and prepare for developing a lesson plan that makes use of geoscientific thinking for use in your classroom in the future.

By the end of this unit, you will be able to:

  • Describe climate change and its impact on the human-built systems such as coastal communities (Activity 2.1).
  • Collect, organize, and analyze multiple lines of geoscience data (spatial and temporal) and describe the relationships and feedback loops among the data sets (Activity 2.2).
  • Construct a concept map/model to illustrate systems thinking (e.g. feedback loops) by linking multiple lines of evidence of the impact of climate-related changes on coastal communities (Activity 2.2).
  • Construct an evidence-based position paper to address the risks that climate change poses to coastal communities (Activity 2.3).

Note: Unit 2 has three activities. Use Tables 1, 2, and 3 (see handout links below) to record your work from Activity 1, 2 and 3 respectively. You will fill out Tables 1, 2 and 3 as a team to complete this unit. You might consider downloading the tables and then uploading them to Google Drive, where you can use the "sharing features" so that each member can add and edit information that the team collects.

Handouts:

After the Storm handout (This is the document of this webpage) (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 60kB Oct16 14)

MS Word Document of Tables 1, 2, and 3 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 23kB Aug27 14).

Activity 2.1: The Issue

  1. Using Table 1: The Issue (OWL Chart), record and analyze the air temperature and CO2 data in the "observed" row using the links below. Afterward, record what you "wondered about" in the second row.
  2. Using Table 1: The Issue (OWL Chart), record what you "observed" and what you "wondered about" in the second and third columns for each of the following links:
  3. Next, based on what you observed and what you wondered about from the climate data, video, and article, record in the last row what you learned that you did not know before.

Assessment for Activity 2.1—The Muddiest Point

Describe what you think is the "muddiest point" related to climate change thus far. This can be about any new terminology, effects of climate change, or any other concept.

Activity 2.2: Investigating the Issue

Introduction to the Issue

Due to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, policy makers and private citizens—among others—wonder about the viability of spending billions of dollars of private and public money to rebuild coastal communities. For instance, Hurricane Sandy, which is anticipated to be the second costliest natural disaster, is estimated to cost at least $50 billion. This kind of weather event is hypothesized to be linked to climate change. To address the issue, the goal for this investigation is for you to write an evidence-based position paper that responds to the problem below.

Problem: To what extent should we build and/or rebuild coastal communities?

Position Paper Criteria:

Write a 500- to 1000-word position paper that . . .

  • Makes an argument and supports the argument with reasons and evidence.
  • Demonstrates organization and use of transitions to clarify relationships among ideas.
  • Demonstrates use of a formal style and standard English.

General Procedures:

In groups of 2–3, follow the steps below (step 1, 2, 3 . . .) to collect, organize, and analyze geoscience climate data and forecast models. This data is the evidence for your position paper. In addition, read the most recent scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This research is additional evidence for your position paper.

Step 1: Select a Study Area

In groups, select a coastal community study area. You may choose from the list below or choose a different study area (e.g. Boston). Every group must select a different study area.

  • East Coast
    Portland, ME
    New York, NY
    Outer Banks, NC
    Charleston, SC
    Miami, FL
  • Gulf Coast
    Tampa, FL
    Mobile, AL
    New Orleans, LA
    Houston, TX
    Galveston, TX
  • West Coast
    San Diego, CA
    Los Angeles, CA
    San Francisco, CA
    Astoria, OR
    Seattle, WA

Step 2: Research the Study Area

Use Google Earth and the Internet to describe the study area. You may divide the task from the list of guiding questions below. Record the group's findings in Table 2: Investigating the Problem.

  • Google Earth: How densely developed is your area? Describe the topography (use 3D mode to see the relief, and hold the mouse over an area to show the elevation). What is the length of the shoreline? (You can measure this using the distance tool.) Has the urban area changed over time? (You can use the historical imagery tool.) Alternatively, you can also use the National Map Viewer in lieu of Google Earth.You can refer to the resources below if you need help using Google Earth.
  • Web: What is the population? Demographics? Urbanization? How has this changed over time? What is the economic output of the region?

Step 3: Research Geoscience Data

Record a summary of the CO2 and temperature trends from Table 1: The Issue into Table 2: Investigating the Problem. Include the temperature data from your study area, too. Then, divide Data Set 1, 2 and 3 (see below) among the group members. For each data set, read the "Data Collection Procedures" and "Guided Analysis Questions" for assistance.

After you collect the data, construct a graph for each data set. Record the summaries and analyses of the data in Table 2.

Note:If you are unfamiliar with Google Earth, KML/KMZ files, or MS Excel graphing, you might want to use the Data Analysis Resources at the end of this handout. Ask your instructor for guidance, too.

Data source:

  • This data set is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • You can find out more about the data and how it was collected at NOAA's Sea Level Trends website.

Data Collection Procedure:

  • The "up" or "down" arrows indicate locations with sea level data; select a minimum of three cities at/near your location. Select two or three locations outside of your area for comparison.
  • Create a table and/or graph based on the guided questions below.

Guided Analysis Questions:

  • What is the lowest recorded sea level data? When? What is the highest? When? What time range was the data collected? What is the rate of sea level change over this time period?
  • How do the data differ among all selected locations? How are they similar?

Data source:

  • This data set is from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and was downloaded from its Virtual Globes website.
  • You can find out more about the data and how it was collected at NSIDC's Greenland Ice Sheet Today website.

Data Collection Procedure (see YouTube tutorial' for these steps])

Guided Analysis Questions:

  • How did the amount of days with ice melt change over the past several decades? What can you infer within the five-year interval?

Data source:

  • This data set is from Kerry Emanuel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was downloaded from his website on tropical cyclones intensity and variability.
  • You can find out more about the data and how it was collected by following the link above.

The data from the link above is the Atlantic tropical cyclone power dissipation and Main Development Region (MDR) sea surface temperature (SST) from 1949 to 2009. Below are key terms.

  • A tropical cyclone is defined as a system that originates over tropical ocean waters and can develop into a destructive storm, which is known in the United States as a hurricane.
  • Power dissipation is defined as the sum of the maximum one-minute sustained wind speed cubed, at six-hourly intervals, for all periods when the cyclone is at least tropical storm strength (minimum of 34 mph).
  • MDR is defined as the region bounded by 6N and 18N, and 20W and 60W; note that the SST data is averaged from August through October of each year.

Data Collection Procedures:

  • Use Google Earth and describe where the MDR is located.
  • Download the data spreadsheet (click on link above). An MS spreadsheet will appear with three columns of data including: 1) Years, 2) the MDR SST, and 3) the Power Dissipation. Please follow the instructions below to create the graph.
    • Highlight only the "MDR SST" and "Power Dissipation" data, including the labels (e.g. MDR SST). Click on the "Insert" tap at the top of the page.
    • Click on "Line." Several options will appear. Click on "stacked line" option. A graph will appear—but the graph will not be organized properly.
    • To organize the graph, double click on the "Power Dissipation" line on the graph itself. A box will appear titled "series options." Click on "secondary axis." A double line graph will appear with the MDR SST labels on the left-hand side and the Power Dissipation labels on the right-hand side.
    • Next, fix the horizontal or x-axis. To do this, right click on the horizontal or x-axis. A menu will appear. Click on "select data source." Click the "edit" button on the horizontal axis labels. A new box will appear, "axis labels." Highlight the year column from 1949–2009 from the MS Excel sheet (do not highlight "year") and hit "ok."
    • Finally, use the "layout tab" at the top of the page to label all axes and to create a title.

Guided Analysis Questions:

  • What is the relationship between sea surface temperature and wind power? Is there a correlation between the two variables?

Step 4: Research Geoscience Forecast Models (optional—ask your instructor)

Analyze the forecast models from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Climate System Model. Use the air temperature anomaly models from various "scenarios" (e.g. low/ high CO2 emissions). Examine the US data and global data. Record your findings in Table 2.

Also, analyze the sea level change model from United States Geological Survey (USGS) Sea Level Rise Animations from the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Thinking. It is best to click onto the state (e.g. CT, NY, FL) that you are investigating. Record your findings in Table 2.

Step 5: Construct Initial Working Hypotheses

As a group, create a list of three or more "initial working hypotheses" that respond to the problem: To what extent are coastal communities at risk due to climate change? Record these initial hypotheses in Table 2. Consider the following questions when constructing your initial working hypotheses:

  1. What data sets (e.g. intensity of hurricanes) or products (forecast models) correlate or link to one another?
  2. Do certain data sets/products seem to affect others (e.g. feedback loops)? To what extent?
  3. How robust are these correlations, links, and feedback loops? What is the level of certainty?
  4. How might the working hypotheses predict the future of climate change for your community?

Step 6: Research the Literature

Read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report titled: Summary for Policy Makers. You may divide the task among/between your group members. If you divide the task, you must teach what you learned to your teammates. Record all summaries in Table 2.

If you would like to find out more about how to address the problem, "To what extent should we build and/or rebuild coastal communities?" these additional resources will go into greater depth in each area:

You may be interested in finding out more about the science behind climate change and tropical cyclones. There has been a lot of research in this area, and here are a few resources to get you started:

Climate Change Indicators in the United States: Tropical Cyclone Activity from the EPA

Kerry Emanuel's Papers, Data, and Graphics Pertaining to Tropical Cyclone Trends and Variability

You may be interested in finding out more about the bigger societal issue: the costs of building/rebuilding. The links below are all to news articles that can get you started collecting information about the costs of rebuilding coastal communities.

Step 7: Construct a Climate Change Concept Map (Model) of Your Study Area

With your study area group, construct a concept map on poster paper with the evidence collected. This map must have links that depict the relationships (e.g. feedback loops) among the parts of the climate system as well as the human-built system (e.g. coastal communities).

Construction Procedures

  1. Based on what you have learned thus far, create a list of as many concepts that you can think of. Consider the following questions. Note: You may record these concepts on Post-its.
    • What concepts correlate or link with one another?
    • Do certain concepts seem to affect other concepts (e.g. feedback loops)? To what extent?
    • How robust are these correlations, links, and feedback loops? What is the level of certainty?
    • How might the working hypotheses predict the future of climate change from your community?
  2. From the list of concepts, organize and group related concepts.
  3. Connect related concepts using lines with arrows that show a direct relationship.
  4. Label each line with words or short phrases that describe the relationship between two or more concepts (e.g. how one concept affects another concept).

Evaluation Procedures

  1. Examine the "lines" and "arrows" that link the concepts to make sure they are valid.
  2. Rearrange and remove concepts to simplify the concept map.
  3. When you are satisfied with your concept map, make sure it is neat and clear.

Step 8: Feedback from Peers

Post your group's concept map. Each study area group will then evaluate the concept maps of other groups. Record what you "agree" with as well as what you "question" on Post-it notes and place them on the concept map.

After all of the group evaluations are complete, review the comments from your concept map. Record what others from the class agreed with as well as the questions others had about your concept map. Based on this feedback, make final revisions to your concept map.

Step 9: Revise the Working Hypotheses and Make Claims

Reexamine the "initial working hypotheses" from Table 2. In light of the new evidence, create a list of three or more revised hypotheses based on your concept map that provide evidence to answer the problem: To what extent should we build and/or rebuild coastal communities?

Finally, cite a claim that you wish to state—based on your revised working hypotheses—that clearly answers the problem. Record this in the last row of Table 2.

Assessment for Activity 2.2: I used to think . . . but now I know

Create a T-chart. On the left-hand side, write "I used to think" and on the right-hand side, write "but now I know." Complete the chart based on what you have learned thus far.

Activity 2.3: Constructing Your Argument

Write a position paper to respond to the unit problem: To what extent should we build and/or rebuild coastal communities?

As a group, complete Table 3: Constructing Your Argument. Each member should complete his or her own table. After you complete Table 3, independently write your 500- to 1000-word position paper. Review the criteria in the left-hand column as well as the performance levels.

Activity 2.3: Position Paper Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 16kB Sep15 14)

Resources

Google Earth

KML or KMZ files

MS Excel

These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »