Time Series Analysis of Lehigh Valley Instrumental Climate Records

Zicheng Yu, Lehigh University
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In this lab the students will learn basic statistical and graph skills by analyzing real world data sets (local and regional instrumental climate records for the last 100 years or so). They will learn how to calculate seasonal means of climate parameters (temperature and precipitation), to detect trends or patterns in the records, and to make different styles of time series graphs. The students will use a spreadsheet program such as Excel.

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Learning Goals

  1. Review some basic methods of data analysis and visual presentation;
  2. Appreciate how some basic climate parameters are calculated from instrumental weather measurements;
  3. Become familiar with the local/regional climate pattern in preparing for analysis of tree-ring data in the labs followed.

Context for Use

This lab is designed for one 3-hour long lab session. Only limit of class size would be the number of computers available to the lab. The students are expected to have basic understanding of climate and climate change, learn basic descriptive statistics and regression analysis, and know how to use Excel.

The activity is used as a bridge of two parts of the labs for an Earth Systems Science course (EES282-Climate, Geosphere and Biosphere). During the first 5 weeks of the semester, the students have labs on atmospheric vertical structure, radiation/energy budget, and climate variability and control, while in the following 5-6 weeks the students will carry out an inquiry-based, practical exercise of tree-ring analysis (coring, measuring, analyzing and interpreting local trees). The lab can also be used as a stand-alone exercise in an Earth Systems Science or environmental science course for exploring local/regional climate variations.

Description and Teaching Materials

Activity Sheet (Acrobat (PDF) 31kB Jun29 05)
Allentown Monthly Climate Data 1925-1996 (Excel 67kB May27 05)
Pennsylvania Division 2 Climate Data (Excel 22kB May27 05)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The lab can be modified to analyze data from other places or can be expanded to include analysis of climate variability (standard deviations, coefficients of variability, histogram).

If it is used as a stand-alone exercise, the content can be expanded to include discussion on climate change and global warming, regional differences of climate change, and possible cuases of observed trends, or lack of, and patterns (anomalies).

Pitfalls and common problems: It may take longer than the 3-hour lab period, if students are not familiar with Excel program.


Allentown Climate Data Graphs (Acrobat (PDF) 315kB Jun28 05)
PA Division 2 Climate Graphs (Acrobat (PDF) 92kB Jun28 05)

References and Resources

The following link to the course home page at Lehigh University provides some context of this particular activity in the course: link to course home page for 2002
Note: More recent course pages are on Blackboard (password-protected).

General Internet resources on weather, climate, earth systems science and global changes can be found through the links in the follwoing page:
general resources on the Internet