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Student Climate Change Research: Challenges and Opportunities


Student Climate Change Research: Challenges and Opportunities David R. Brooks, PhD President, Institute for Earth Science Research and Education – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Student Climate Change Research: Challenges and Opportunities

Student Climate Change Research Challenges and
  • David R. Brooks, PhD
  • President, Institute for Earth Science Research
    and Education
  • Asia-Pacific GLOBE Learning Expedition,
  • Hua Hin, Thailand
  • 13-18 November, 2007

  • Climate change is one of the most important
    science and public policy challenges for the 21st
  • Today's students will, as adults, inhabit a world
    that may be much different from the present
  • Can students and teachers promote understanding
    of climate change?
  • Can students and teachers contribute to climate

What is Climate?
  • Climate is not the same as weather, which
    includes short-term fluctuations due to seasons
    and movements of air masses, for example.
  • Climate can refer just to regions or the entire
  • ? average meteorological conditions in a
  • particular place (30-year averages)
  • ? global conditions (over 1000s of years and
  • longer)
  • Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you
    get. (Robert Heinlein)

What is Global Climate Change?
  • Global climate change means that average
    conditions on Earth are changing. In general,
    these changes are associated with global warming.
  • Regional climate changes are already known to be
    occurring (e.g., melting of the Arctic ice cap
    and the retreat of glaciers). These changes are
    occurring rapidly by historical standards and, in
    some cases, more rapidly than scientists
  • Most Earth scientists agree that although it is
    possible that future ice ages eventually may
    occur, currently the entire planet is getting
    warmer more quickly than in the past, and this
    will cause dramatic global disruptions unless it
    can be controlled.

Thailand's Climate
(Describing a regional climate) Thailand has a
tropical climate with high temperatures and high
relative humidity. It is dominated by the monsoon
cycle. April and May are the hottest months. June
brings the start of the monsoon season, a rainy
period that lasts through October. Temperatures
are somewhat cooler in November through February,
with lower humidity and northeast breezes. The
north and northeast are generally cooler than
Bangkok between November and February, and hotter
in summer. Temperatures in Thailand never fall
below freezing (0C).
Global Climate
Temperature inferred from O18/O16 ratios. CO2
measured in trapped air bubbles. CO2 and
temperature are positively correlated, but which
is the cause and which is the effect? Most
scientists believe that increasing levels of CO2
are now causing global temperatures to rise (the
greenhouse effect).
(Data from Russian Vostok Station ice cores, east
Antarctica, a joint Russian, U.S., and French
Global Climate Since the Last Ice Age
(Data from ice and sediment cores around the
Recent History
(Since start of Industrial Revolution.)
Possible Effects of Climate Change in Southeast
  • Sea levels may rise 20 cm by 2030(?). Much of
    Bangkok and its surroundings are within 1 m of
    present sea level. Valuable coastal farmland will
    be lost. Disappearance of beaches will hurt
  • There may be reduced rice production due to loss
    of land, higher temperatures, and changing
    rainfall patterns.
  • There will be consequences if farmers and
    fishermen cannot adapt to changing conditions.
    Spontaneous migration of large populations could
    be financially disruptive and create more serious
    social and environmental problems.
What Can We Do About Climate Change?
  • Quantify indicators of climate change.
  • Attempt to understand what kinds of human
    activities are contributing to climate change.
  • Make responsible personal and community choices
    about how we use energy.
  • Hold our governments responsible for investing in
    and implementing policies that protect the
    environment and move beyond an economy based on
    fossil fuels.

The First Big Question
Can students contribute to climate change
My answer Yes, but it is not easy!
What is real climate research?
Observations and measurements that
  • are done in collaboration with scientists
  • follow established protocols to address
    appropriate questions
  • are conducted in appropriate places
  • are carried out over appropriate time scales
  • use appropriate equipment that is calibrated and
    used properly.

The Second Big Question
Should students contribute to climate change
My answer Yes, because research is an
essential part of the science process. But, does
research need to be an essential part of the
science education process? Countries, schools,
teachers, and students must decide for themselves.
How Do We Do It?
  • Understand the problems and ask the right
  • Form partnerships among scientists, teachers, and
    students, and their institutions.
  • Make long-term institutional commitments that do
    not depend just on individuals.
  • Make the equipment investments required to
    produce high-quality data. (Sometimes these
    investments can be small!)
  • Follow international standards for data
  • Use automated data collection whenever
  • Make a commitment to long-term data quality.

How Not To Measure Temperature!
Official National Weather Service station in a
parking lot at a major U.S. university, with
gravel to simulate desert conditions.
Is Philadelphias Climate Changing?
What Do These Data Tell You?
Is Philadelphias Climate Changing?
You cant tell from these data! (The air
temperature measurements have not been made
according to accepted international standards.)
Students can do better!
Measuring Air Temperature
  • The international standard is a Stevenson
  • The GLOBE thermometer shelter is smaller. Are
    temperatures different? I dont know.

Stevenson screen
GLOBE shelter
80 x 61 x 59 cm
50 x 28 x 20 cm
Climate Changes Are Small!
Is the number of Atlantic tropical cyclones
related To sea surface temperature?
M. E. Mann, K. A. Emanuel, G. J. Holland, P. J.
Webster Atlantic Tropical Cyclones Revisited,
EOS, 88, 36, 4 September 2007.
Some Research Students and Teachers Can Do
  • Photographing the solar aureole and the sky.
  • Radiometry recording total insolation and UV
  • Sun photometry recording changes in aerosol
    optical depth and water vapor
  • Reflectivity monitoring changes in surface
    reflectance (albedo)
  • Air and soil temperatures monitoring long-term
    changes in soil temperature (related to soil

Sky Photography
  • The aureole is the circular region of
    light-colored sky around the sun. It is caused by
    scattering from dust and other aerosols in the
    atmosphere. A very clear sky produces a small
    aureole, and a very dirty sky can produce a
    very large aureole.
  • Digital photographs of the sun can be analyzed to
    determine the size of the aureole, which can be
    related to atmospheric conditions, including
  • Photos of the sky, pointing away from the sun,
    can also be related to air pollution and aerosols.

Photographing the Solar Aureole
Do NOT look through an optical viewfinder!! Direct
sun photos may damage a digital camera.
Canon PowerShot A530, F5.6 _at_ 1/1600 s on a very
clear day. Use the same F-stop and shutter speed
for every photo. Analysis with ImageJ software,
available as a free download from http//
Sky Looking North at Solar Noon
Twilight Glow from Polluted Sky
How Does Photography Become Climate Science?
  • Always use the same camera one with manual
    settings for focus, exposure time, and f-stop.
  • Use the same f-stop and exposure settings, and
    focus at infinity. (Do not use automatic
  • Use the highest resolution that your camera
  • Always photograph the same scene, and include a
    little land or water below the horizon, to track
    seasonal changes on the ground.
  • Photograph the scene at the same time of day, for
    example, twilight or solar noon.
  • Do not apply digital enhancements or resize or
    compress the image.
  • Collect images regularly over long periods of
  • Keep careful records about scenes, dates, times,
    and camera settings, including your latitude,
    longitude, and elevation.

Bringing the Sun Down to Earth
Weather and climate are controlled by the suns
interaction with Earths surface and atmosphere.
This is a basic topic for Earth science
education. There are many measurements students
can make to improve understanding of these
Measuring Insolation Student Pyranometer Data
Cloud Climatologies in Texas
1-hr means and standard deviations of 1-min
Broadband and Near-IR Reflectivity
UV Radiometry
Smoke in the atmosphere reduces UV radiation
reaching Earths surface. This can disrupt
ecosystems and may be associated with bird flu.
UV-A radiation can be monitored with a
relatively inexpensive (150) radiometer. It
uses a blue LED that responds to radiation with
a strong peak around 372 nm. Mims, Forrest
M. III. Avian Influenza and UV-B Blocked by
Biomass Smoke. Environmental Health
Perspectives, 113, 12, 806-807, December 2005.
Measuring Aerosols
  • Sun photometers can be used to monitor absorption
    and scattering of sunlight by particles in the
    atmosphere (aerosols), by measuring the aerosol
    optical thickness.
  • The effects of aerosols are one of the larger
    uncertainties in computer models used to predict
    future climate.
  • The sun photometer shown here uses LEDs to
    measure aerosol optical thickness at green and
    red wavelengths.
  • Hundreds of these instruments have been used
    around the world, with student data included in
    papers published in peer-reviewed science

Aerosols in Rural Arkansas
Aerosols in Puerto Rico
Water Vapor in Puerto Rico
Does Anybody Need More Temperature Measurements?
  • Yes! There are hardly any long-term simultaneous
    records of air temperature and soil temperature.
  • These data are important for agriculture and pest
  • Changes in soil temperature can be indicators of
    climate change (for example, melting permafrost).
  • The relationship between soil and air temperature
    depends on soil moisture, another indicator of
    climate change (in tropical climates?).

Air and Soil Temperature in Pennsylvania
  • I have briefly described some research areas in
    which students and teachers can make significant
    contributions to climate science. Other
    scientists will have other ideas.
  • Students CAN make significant contributions to
    climate science, because predictions of future
    climate depend on having many sources of reliable
    long-term data.
  • The stable physical environment around schools
    provides major advantages for this kind of
  • Climate change research must be conducted over
    the long term years, rather than months.
  • School-based student research must be chosen
    carefully and conducted in collaboration with
  • School administrators and the education
    establishment must be willing and able to provide
    long-term institutional support, including
    science support that goes beyond what is required
    for educational support.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss student
climate change research. I hope there are many