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Atmosphere, Biosphere, Climate, Cryosphere, Hydrosphere, Lithosphere, Oceans



Some argue that long-term climate models shouldn't be taken too seriously since short-term weather models sometimes can't even get the forecast right for a few days out. The climate system consists of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere, determining the Earth's climate as the result of natural interactions and responses to external influences (climate forcing). Global climate change could be caused by natural fluctuations in the climate system (e.g., cycles in ocean/atmosphere circulations) and/or non-anthropogenic influences (e.g., sunspot activity, volcano eruptions). Others do not agree. Scientists study climate from a variety of perspectives including past climate cycles, using proxy data (ice cores or marine sediment cores) as well as looking at anthropogenic impacts on the planet that could play a major role in the unchecked growth of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere.

Climate data collections contain vast amounts of information describing the current and historical picture of global climate. A few excellent Climate Data Sources are:


For decades, Earth observation satellites, and in-situ land-based and ocean-based data sampling sites have acquired massive volumes of data that pertain to our understanding of the Earth's climate. These data are used by climatologists to understand how interactions between the Earth's atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere generate climate conditions over time, as well as to understand the role that human activities play in climate change.

The Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606) mandated the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinate and integrate all federal agencies looking at changes in the global environment and their implications for society. Every four years, the USGCRP is required to submit a report, "Our Changing Planet," to Congress. In preparation of the next report, USGCRP asked your ESS team to make predictions, inferences, or other appropriate determinations about the climate. Much of the voluminous data indicate a significant and wide-ranging influence, leading to concerns over the cause and consequences of global climate change. What do the data trends reveal for the United States within next decade? Is there a climate change problem? The USGCRP is sure to be interested in the support for your position.


Date: 6/3/2011

Scenario Images:

GISS Surface Temperature Analysis Animations
GISS Surface Temperature Analysis Animations
The NASA/GSFC Scientific Visualization Center has used the GISTEMP dataset to create several video animations of the five-year mean anomaly of surface temperature for 1881 through 2009.
5-Year Mean Anomaly Begins with 1881-1885 mean calendar year anomaly and ends with 2003-2007. 1-minute version (advances two years per second): Download as QuickTime (3.1 MB) or MP4 (3.0 MB).

See more -
GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

AIRS Carbon Dioxide with Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Overlaid, 2002 to 2009
AIRS Carbon Dioxide with Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Overlaid, 2002 to 2009
An AIRS time-series made with data retrieved on the NASA Aqua spacecraft. It is overlain with a graph of the seasonal variation and interannual increase of CO2 measured at Mauna Loa. movie

The Surface of the Earth is Warming
The Surface of the Earth is Warming
Four maps of the northern hemisphere trend, with average surface temperature for: top left, 1919; top right, 2002; bottom left, 2061; and bottom right, 2099. Center, the global average, as a function of time based on observed temperature (pre-2000) and a climate model assuming a continued high rate of greenhouse gas emission

Compare Muir Glacier Photos
Compare Muir Glacier Photos
On the left is a photograph of Muir Glacier taken on August 13, 1941, by glaciologist William O. Field; on the right, a photograph taken from the same vantage on August 31, 2004, by geologist Bruce F. Molnia of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Between 1941 and 2004 the glacier retreated more than twelve kilometers (seven miles) and thinned by more than 800 meters (875 yards).

See more photographs of glaciers, mostly taken in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Greenland. Photographs were taken from both the air and the ground. The dates of the photographs range from the mid 1800s to the present day.

Sea Level Rise
Absolute sea level rise between 1955 and 2003 as computed from tide gauges and satellite imagery data. The data has been corrected for the rising or sinking of land due to crustal motions or subsidence of the land, so the relative sea level rise along the coast will be different than this. The total rise (in inches) for the 48-year period is given in the top scale, and the rate in mm/year is given in the bottom scale. The regional sea level variations shown here resulted not only from the input of additional water from melting of glaciers and ice caps, but also from changes in ocean temperature and density, as well as changes in precipitation, ocean currents, and river discharge. Image credit: IPCC, 2007

Study Finds Earth's Lakes are Warming
Study Finds Earth's Lakes are Warming
The temperatures of Earth's largest lakes have risen in the past 25 years according to a new NASA study. The greatest increases were in the mid- to high- latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.



Effects of Climate Change Today (Cycle A)
Website describes various types of evidence of climate change taking place today in the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere.


Global Climate Change: A Glance in the Rear View Mirror (Cycle A)
This Geotimes article provides an overview of the use of climate proxies.


Global Climate Change: Vital Sign of the Planet (Cycle A)


NASA AIRS Images Shed Light on Carbon Dioxide's Global Nature (Cycle A)
A NASA/university team has published the first global satellite maps of the key greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in Earth's mid-troposphere, an area about 8 kilometers, or 5 miles, above Earth. See also: AIRS Image Shows Global Carbon Dioxide Transport.


NASA has defined a set of Earth system science questions that can best be addressed using the Agency's unique capabilities.


The Climate TimeLine Information Tool (Cycle A)

The Climate TimeLine Information Tool is designed as an interactive matrix to allow users to examine climatic information at varying scales through time. Beginning with the daily cycle of Earth's rotation on its axis, the Climate Timeline moves logarithmically using the powers of ten from the daily cycle on its axis(10-.027 years)and annual cycle around the sun(100 years)to 100,000 (105)year timescales and beyond.


Climate Forcings, Feedback, and Forecasts (Cycle B)
A pdf resource re. "Forcings, Feedback, and Forecasts" taken from the IPCC's Fourth Assessment.


Climate Impact of Quadrupling CO2 (Cycle B)
Read this overview of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory climate model results is presented from a series of experiments examining the possible climate impact of a quadrupling CO2.


Encyclopedia of Earth: Climate Change (Cycle B)
A source of causes and consequences of Global climate change. The Encyclopedia is a collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who collaborate and review each other's work. The articles are written in non-technical language and are useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public.


Global Climate Change Research Explorer (Cycle B)
Explore climate change from many fields - physics, chemistry, biology, meteorology, oceanography, and even sociology. You can explore scientific data relating to the atmosphere, the oceans, the areas covered by ice and snow, and the living organisms in all these domains. You'll also get a sense of how scientists study natural phenomena, how researchers gather evidence, test theories, and come to conclusions.


Global Warming Effects Map (Cycle B)
National geographic presents several scenarios of global climate change.


Climate Literacy: "The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences" (Cycle C)
Information for individuals and communities to understand Earth's climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches for adapting and mitigating change.


Eyes on the Earth (Cycle C)
This new visualization website provides students with opportunity to access real-time satellite data and information about data collecting satellites. The link also allows students to interactively play games using satellite data, such as finding world cities with the largest CO2 emissions.


Hot Questions about Climate Change (Cycle C)
Some interesting questions and deeper background on global climate change.


Lesson Plans Related to Climate Change (Cycle C)
The lessons featured on this page provide a few possible ideas for climate change related studies using MY NASA DATA.


Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness (Cycle C)
Climate literacy and energy awareness principles are the framework for grade-level specific teaching strategies and materials for teaching the science behind Climate and Energy issue.


Sample Investigations:


Earth Exploration Toolbook - Is Greenland Melting? (Cycle A)
The Earth Exploration Toolbook is a collection of computer-based Earth science activities. Each activity has Step-by-Step for investigating Earth system data.

In this activity using My World GIS, students explore data that characterize the dynamic Greenland Ice Sheet. By examining photographs, map views, and tabular data, students gain an understanding of how and why scientists are monitoring the ice sheet and what they are finding.

Difficulty: intermediate


Earth Exploration Toolbook - Envisioning Climate Change Using a Global Climate Model (Cycle A)
Run climate modeling software to visualize how temperature and snow coverage might change over the next 100 years. see Step-by-Step Instructions
Difficulty: intermediate


Instructional Movie and Questions: Radiation from the Sun and Earth (Cycle A)
The NASA Earth Observatory investigates the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the sun and earth both Watch the movie and answer the Practice Questions that follow. Compare your Practice Questions answers with your team.
Difficulty: beginner


Instructional Movie and Questions: The Earth's Energy Balance (Cycle A)
The NASA Earth Observatory investigates The Earth's Energy Balance to understand radiative equilibrium. Watch the movie and answer the Practice Questions that follow the movie. Compare your Practice Questions answers with your team.
Difficulty: intermediate


The Climate Wizard Tool (Cycle A)
Climate Wizard enables technical and non-technical audiences alike to access leading climate change information and visualize the impacts anywhere on Earth. The first generation of this web-based program allows the user to choose a state or country and both assess how climate has changed over time and to project what future changes are predicted to occur in a given area.
Difficulty: intermediate


Earth Exploration Toolbook - Are Our Cities Warming the Earth? (Cycle B)
The Earth Exploration Toolbook is a collection of computer-based Earth science activities with Step-by-Step instructions for investigating Earth system data.
In this activity, learners explore the urban heat island effect with My World GIS and GLOBE Program surface temperature student data. Subset large datasets, buffer others, examine spatial relationships, and gather statistics to investigate temperature differences in urban and rural school sites.
Difficulty: intermediate


Feeling the Heat (Cycle B)
Learn about the urban heat island effect by investigating which areas of their schoolyard have higher temperatures.
Difficulty: beginner


Instructional Movie and Questions: Computer Climate Models (Cycle B)
Scientists use computer climate models to help them understand how temperature in different regions of the world may change as carbon dioxide increases. Learn more about these tools by viewing this movie and answer the Practice Questions that follow. Compare your answers with your team.
Difficulty: intermediate


Quantifying Changes in the Land Over Time (Cycle B)
In this Landsat Classroom Activity students analyze land cover change in order to help them grasp the extent, significance, and consequences of land cover change; and to introduce them to the perspective of space-based observations. Grades 5-12.
Difficulty: intermediate


Student's Guide to Global Climate Change (Cycle B)
An EPA investigation developed to help provide students (and educators!) with clear, accurate information about the causes and effects of climate change.
Difficulty: beginner


Climate Change and Sea Level Rise (Cycle C)
"In this lesson, students will practice the steps involved in a scientific investigation as they learn why ice formations on land -- not those on water -- will cause a rise in sea level upon melting."

Difficulty: beginner


Focus questions for Global Warming: It's All About Carbon Episodes 1 - 5 (Cycle C)
Have students watch the five short cartoons in order from episode 1 to episode 5, answering the questions for each episode.
Difficulty: beginner


My NASA DATA Investigating Factors that Influence Climate (Cycle C)
Use MY NASA DATA to investigate how latitude and longitude (and distance from oceans) impact climatic factors such as temperature range, average temperature, and precipitation.
Difficulty: intermediate


The Great Climate Change Debate: Natural or Human? (Cycle C)
This is one of several lesson plans created by the Keystone Center on climate change topics. This lesson lets students learn about the issues concerning climate change in a debate style activity. Links to resources, other related activities are found here for Grades 9-12.
Difficulty: intermediate




  • Science
    National Science Education Standards - Science Content Standards The science content standards outline what students should know, understand, and be able to do in the natural sciences over the course of K-12 education.
      The understandings and abilities associated with the following concepts and processes need to be developed throughout a student's educational experiences:
      • Systems, order, and organization
      • Evidence, models, and explanation
      • Constancy, change, and measurement
      • Science as Inquiry (Std A)
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
        • Understanding about scientific inquiry
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Energy in the earth system
        • Geochemical cycles
      • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Std F)
        • Natural and human-induced hazards
      • History and Nature of Science (Std G)
        • Nature of scientific knowledge
  • Geography
    Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, 1994
      Physical processes shape Earth’s surface and interact with plant and animal life to create, sustain, and modify ecosystems. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth’s surface
      People are central to geography in that human activities help shape Earth’s surface, human settlements and structures are part of Earth’s surface, and humans compete for control of Earth’s surface. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • How the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth’s surface
      The physical environment is modified by human activities, largely as a consequence of the ways in which human societies value and use Earth’s natural resources, and human activities are also influenced by Earth’s physical features and processes. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • How human actions modify the physical environment
      • How physical systems affect human systems
      • The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources
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