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Three New Climate Change Books

Climate change books

The Society has been given the chance to review three new climate change books aimed at a very similar audience:

Climate Crisis

Climate Crisis for Beginners
Andy Prentice and Eddie Reynolds
Usborne Publishing Ltd, 2020
Hardback £9.99
128pp
ISBN 978-1-4749-7986-3

Summary: a very comprehensive, engaging and current book for upper primary/ lower secondary aged students

“How important is this crisis? Not everyone agrees about this. This book is here to help you make up your own mind.”

With bright, simple illustrations and a cartoon-like style, it is aimed at young people – the recommended age range is 10+. I suspect that it will appeal most to the 10-14 age range, and then again to slightly older people who will not feel patronised by the style but will have interest in the content. My 14 year-old daughter was put off both by ‘for beginners’ and the appearance of the book. Being much older than that, I struggled a bit with the style – I didn’t know which bit to read next.

Andy Prentice and Eddie Reynolds are authors and editors at Usborne and have consulted with Steve Smith (University of Oxford) and Ajay Ghambir (Imperial College, London) in writing this book.  Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) and Richard Betts (University of Exeter) also contributed. There are 5 chapters – The Basics; How sure are we? What do we do? What’s stopping us? And What can I do?

The book manages to walk the tightrope of accuracy v. oversimplification very well. Of course, that balance will never be perfect – for me, for example, it’s missing a discussion of water vapour in the section about greenhouse gases. However, it introduces an impressively broad range of concepts and vocabulary associated with climate science and climate change more generally.

Climate Crisis for Beginners conveys the significance of climate change together with the many and various political and social issues as well as the viewpoints and priorities of individuals. However, for me, the strength of this book lies in the weight it puts on the solutions and opportunities already available. It is not all doom and gloom.

One concern that I do have is just how quickly the book will become out of date – in one or two places it already has.

I asked my 11 year-old daughter to read it – here are some of her thoughts (I have corrected the spelling): “When I first looked at this book, it looked colourful and full of interesting ideas and visions of the future. The information is presented in a fun way with lots of subtitles and boxes so that you can find what you need easily. I like all the different points of view and the reasoning behind the different answers to questions.”

The book concludes “Now that you’ve read this book, you’ve got the tools to imagine the future that you want and an idea of how to start your journey towards it.”

Climate Action

Climate Action: The Future is in our Hands
Georgina Stevens
Illustrator Katie Rewse
Little Tiger Press, 2021
Hardback £19.99
72pp

Summary: A bright, positive reference book for upper primary aged children, focussing on climate change impacts, mitigation and action

“In this book, we share the facts, but we also share hope.

Learn about the causes of climate change and how it is affecting our world.

Explore the human impact and what it means to have a carbon footprint.

Read about creative ideas for tackling the climate crisis.

Be inspired by positive stories from young changemakers around the globe.

Get tips on how to take action and reduce your carbon footprint.”

The recommended age range for this book is 7-12 and the bright, colourful and relatively simple design and illustrations are geared towards the younger end of that age range. Having said that, my daughters, aged 11 and 14 both really enjoyed it, particularly liking the embossed cover. This is a book which is nice to hold – possibly justifying its price which includes the cost of planting a tree. The layout is as a reference book, making extensive use of subtitles, with each double page spread covering one topic, such as greenhouse gases, tropical storms or our clothes. The ratio of text to images is appealing and the text and images are appropriate to the literacy and numeracy skills of the intended age group.

Georgina Stevens is a sustainability writer, advisor and campaigner. In each topic she features a ‘what can we do’ section with small, achievable changes that young people and their families could make. The book also features a number of ‘changemakers’ and ‘groundbreakers’ – young people from around the world who have already developed sustainability initiatives or got involved in the climate change movement. What the book is missing, though, is the big, complex, economic, social and political developments that could have a really significant global impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

I think that the book probably does have a nice balance of science, technology and positivity for the upper primary age range. The science parts of the book aren’t completely accurate – I cringed when the greenhouse effect was described as a reflection of heat, and water vapour is missing from the discussion of greenhouse gases, but it’s probably appropriate for this age range. 

My 11-year old sagely pointed out that the focus of the book is on now – to this age group, the past may feel slightly irrelevant and the future too unknown and intimidating.

Palm Trees at the North Pole, The Hot Truth about Climate Change
Marc ter Horst
Illustrated by Wendy Panders
Greystone Kids, 2021
Hardback £14.99
192pp

Summary: a science book best suited to early secondary school aged students who like reading. Don’t be put off by the title.

“Once upon a time, there were palm trees at the North Pole. Can you picture that? The most tropical of trees in a place where now there is only snow and ice. In the future, they might reappear. Because the climate is constantly changing.”

Firstly, the title. My 11 year-old daughter’s first comment was about the fact that there isn’t any land at the North Pole. Although the book does touch on continental drift, the author never really explains ‘palm trees at the North Pole’ nor justifies the extension to the future and, for anyone inclined to be sceptical about climate science, this is a very easy target. However, the book does merit passing this first hurdle.

The author, Marc ter Horst, has written several other non-fiction titles for young people. His interests in geology and evolution are apparent in the book, a large section of which focusses on the past. This is a book which is designed to be read from cover to cover rather than dipped in to. It is made up of double page case studies linked together in a  fairly simple, frequently light-hearted story-telling style which will appeal to some readers, particularly those who don’t much like reference book style facts and figures. Inevitably the style means that some processes are over-simplified. However, explaining, say, the Milankovitch cycles in story form is an impressive achievement.

The story starts with the early evolution of the Earth and, passing through Keeling curves and hockey sticks progresses to the impacts of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation strategies don’t really start being mentioned until p. 138 and its only after that – if the reader has got that far – that positive opportunities for preventing climate change start being introduced. This is not a book that will help much with the rise of eco-anxiety in young people.

A unique feature is that the book finishes with ‘climate bingo’ and the instruction to cross off events as they happen – with events covering a questionable choice of climate change impacts and mitigation and adaptation strategies.

My daughter thought the illustrations, which are simple and sometimes add to the text but are mostly just decorative, were her favourite part.  Aimed at readers aged 8-12, it is quite text heavy and I think most 8 year-olds would struggle with it.

Categories
Blog Climate Climate Change Science

Weather, Climate and Chaos Theory

Why is it so hard to predict the weather a week in advance, and how can scientists tell us what they think the climate will be like in 50 years’ time?

First of all, it’s important to understand that weather isn’t random, it’s chaotic. If the weather was random, it would mean there’s no possible way of knowing what it was going to do next. However, the weather does obey the laws of physics and every change in the weather has a cause. The problem is that since there are so many possible causes, we can’t know about them all.

You may have heard of the butterfly effect (first proposed by Ed Lorenz in the 1960s): A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon rainforest might, through a long line of unlikely but possible consequences, cause a storm over Texas. In a similar vein, if we don’t know what’s going on in the atmosphere and on the Earth’s surface down to the detail of a butterfly flapping its wings now, we can’t hope to know how that’ll affect the weather in a week’s time. The possible range of consequences grows with time – and the ability to accurately forecast the weather will decrease with time. Of course, some weather situations – such as High pressure, are much easier to predict than others – such as the snow showers which can be caused by Arctic maritime air, but in general tomorrow’s weather forecast is much more likely to be accurate than one for 10 days’ time.

double pendulum

Animation created by Ross Bannister

This animated double pendulum illustrates the chaotic nature of weather really well: The pendulum starts off in the same position, but with a slightly different rotation speed (400.0 degrees/ second v. 400.1 degrees/ second). Over time the difference in the way the double pendulum rotates grows, until the two are behaving completely differently. 

Modern forecasting techniques try to capture the range of possible future weather by making an ‘ensemble’ of weather forecasts – rather than making one forecast with one set of starting conditions (the weather now) they make many forecasts, each with tiny differences in the weather now – trying to take into account the effects of all the possible ‘butterflies’ or other tiny details about the climate system that we can’t possibly measure. The ensemble of forecasts gives forecasters a range of possible weather forecasts, with some indication of what’s most likely, and what might happen.

The climate, unlike the weather, is not chaotic. Remembering that climate is ‘average weather’, if large scale factors which control the climate are known – the composition of the atmosphere, the location of the continents, the Earth’s position in relation to the Sun etc. then it’s possible to predict the climate.

In between weather forecasts and climate forecasts come seasonal forecasts – the ‘what will the weather be next winter’ type questions. As the weather is chaotic, this is very hard to do, but there is some skill to be found in looking at the large scale influences on the weather – for example, if there’s a strong El Niño occurring, then certain weather patterns are more likely to form than others.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (or NAO) is another of the many factors which can be looked at. Meteorologists look at the pressure difference between Iceland and the Azores. The pressure is always lower in Iceland than in the Azores because of the large scale circulation of the atmosphere, however the difference in pressure can vary. A large difference in the pressure (a positive NAO) leads to stronger westerlies, bringing moist air to Europe. Consequently, summers are cool and winters are mild and wet in Central and Western Europe. In contrast, if the pressure difference is small (a negative NAO), westerlies are suppressed, winters are cold and dry in northern European areas and the depressions track southwards toward the Mediterranean Sea, bringing increased storm activity and rainfall to southern Europe and North Africa.

Categories
Blog Schools

Borrow a 3D printer to 3D Print the Central England Temperature Record

The CREATE education project have offered to loan a 3D printer to 2 UK secondary schools for one month, in order to enable them to 3D print part of the Central England Temperature record. Schools can of course use the printers for other projects as well while they have them on loan.

The 3D Printing the Weather Project is a collaboration between the Royal Meteorological Society and CREATE. 

3D model

This fully resourced project teaches students about extreme weather and climate change, through the process of creating 3D models that represent 10 years of temperature data. These engaging, visual and tactile models will allow students to get a hands-on experience of what climate is and how it can change, and how extreme weather relates to the climate. The UK has the longest instrumental weather record from anywhere in the world – that’s an incredible resource for students to engage with.

This engaging resource has been designed for ages 11 – 16 in geography and PSHE, with data on average monthly temperature dating back from January 1659 to December 2018.

The activity consists of the following stages

Introduction to the project (2 lessons)
3D modelling (2 lessons)
Slicing and 3D printing (1 lesson)
Studying the weather

RMetS and CREATE Education are now encouraging schools to share their series of models to represent longer time frames. Some of the models may be on display at events supporting the COP26 summit in November.

Access the resources.

If you’re interested in borrowing a printer, please contact education@rmets.org

Categories
Books Climate Climate Change CPD Geography Microclimates Schools Secondary Teaching Weather

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

weather and climate teachers guideIn this teachers’ guide and the accompanying online teaching resources, we aim to give UK geography teachers all that they need to deliver relevant, engaging and thorough weather and climate lessons to 11–14+ year old students. They are not linked to any specific curriculum but should be easily adaptable to all.

The book is accompanied by high quality online background information/professional development resources for teachers.

 

 

 

The Royal Meteorological Society believes that:

  • all students should leave school with basic weather literacy that allows them to understand the weather that affects them, their leisure activities and the careers they choose to follow
  • every student should leave school with basic climate literacy that would enable them to engage with the messages put forward by the media or politicians and to make informed decisions about their own opportunities and responsibilities.

To this end, we have embedded a climate change thread throughout the online resources, showing its relevance to both weather and climate. An understanding of weather and climate is fundamental to an understanding of climate change.

There is a progression of knowledge through the topics, supported by review and assessment activities. The resources also progressively develop key geographical skills such as data, mapwork, GIS, fieldwork and critical thinking.

In this guide, we include common misconceptions which should be challenged in the classroom.

There are 20 topics or chapters. Across these, there are three threads or paths which can be taken through the online resources, depending on the teaching time available:

Basic weather: Weather in our lives, weather measurements, weather and climate, global atmospheric circulation, global climate zones, air masses, pressure and wind and water in the atmosphere

Climate: Weather and climate, global atmospheric circulation, global climate zones, past climate change, polar climate, hot deserts, changing global climate, UK climate, changing UK climate, the climate crisis

Extending weather: Anticyclones, depressions, microclimates, urban weather, tropical cyclones.

Many of the online teaching resources are available with standard or easier versions, as well as extension or alternative activities.

Find the scheme of work, teaching resources, background information for teachers, as well as the Teachers’ Guide (copies of which may be printed on request), here

All the online resources will be updated and revised regularly.

Categories
Climate Change

COP26 and November 2020

As we head into the weeks when COP26, the UN climate change conference at which heads of state, climate experts and campaigners come together to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change, should have happened, a number of organisations are taking the opportunity to run virtual climate events.

The Youth Climate Summit will run from 9-13 November 2020.  It is a free, week-long virtual festival of themed discussions and activities.

Between 19 November – 1st December, Mockcop are running a youth-led online conference following a similar structure to the postponed COP26 climate summit to raise the ambition of our leaders when it comes to tackling the climate emergency.

If you are in a school, why not take the opportunity to run our Climate Negotiations resource with a year group bubble? We hope to have a fully virtual version available early in 2021.

COP26 will now run from 1-12 November 2021, in Glasgow.

Categories
Geography Secondary Weather

The Weather of 2020

Last week, Sylvia Knight from the Royal Meteorological Society gave a talk for Geography education online on the Weather of 2020.
This year it felt like we had summer weather in Spring and Autumn weather in Summer. In this session, we examine the global processes that determine the weather in the UK, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on weather and climate around the world.
The talk is aimed at A Level students, but would also be useful CPD for geography teachers or for younger students who have already covered a weather topic.

Categories
Climate Climate Change Weather

Weather, Climate and Covid-19

Sylvia Knight, Head of Education at the Royal Meteorological Society, recently recorded a podcast for the Royal Geographical Society with IGB, looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the weather and climate across the world. You can access the podcast here.

Further reading:

Categories
Geography Weather

Arctic Maritime Air

Over the weekend, we saw Arctic Maritime air descend over the UK, with temperatures dropping by around 10C.

The following snapshot from http://earth.nullschool.net from the morning of Monday 11th May, shows winds blowing clockwise around a High pressure area to the northwest of the UK. This means a northerly air flow over much of the UK, swinging round to easterlies over southern counties.

We can see in these charts from the preceding weekend how the polar front (shown as a cold front) swept down across the UK. This first chart shows 6am on Sunday 10th May, with the cold air over Scotland, Northern Ireland and some of northern England.

The second chart shows midnight on Monday 11th May – cold air now covers the whole of the UK.

Observations show the temperatures plummeting as the cold front passed, moving us into Arctic maritime air – these observations are from Reading University’s weather station, showing both a week and a 2 day view:

Temperatures clearly drop from around 19C on Sunday morning to 12C by lunchtime, and below 5C overnight. This temperature drop was later further south in the country, and earlier further north. The following graph corresponds to the same time period as the Reading data, but shows data from the Whitworth observatory in Manchester (with thanks to Michael Flynn):

The northerly winds, funnelling surface waters down the North Sea, came at the same time as a Spring tide – the following image is taken from tidetimes and shows the tide height at Whitby. Spring tides are marked by a greater tidal range – higher high tides, and lower low tides.

This led to extremely high tides – and the Thames Barrier was closed overnight to protect London from flooding. A flood alert was issued by the Environment Agency for the South Devon coast.

To make this case study memorable for students, it could be linked to Boris Johnson’s speech at 7pm (18UTC) on the evening of Sunday 10th.

Categories
Science

Short Atmospheric Physics Videos

We have been delighted to work together with Imperial College, London and the Institute of Physics Environmental Physics group to produce a set of 6 short films looking at how we can use an infrared camera or thermometer to observe physics at work in the atmosphere.

Categories
Extreme weather

New Tropical Cyclone Challenge

Use our new online interactive Tropical Cyclone Challenge to discover the recipe for a Tropical Cyclone!