15. Climate Crisis

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Climate

Changing Global ClimateUK ClimateChanging UK climate – Climate Crisis

Lesson overview: In this lesson we explore the language used to talk about climate change and look in detail at sea level rise, tipping points and UN climate negotiations.

The Climate Crisis movement grew during 2018 with the formation of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg’s Schools Climate Strike.   The language used by both politicians and the public to describe climate change was transformed over the space of a few months; Blue Planet 2 sensitised the UK public to the environmental impacts of our lives, Extinction Rebellion was formed to demand greater and faster action to reduce the impacts of climate change and Greta Thunberg’s Schools Climate Strike spread across the world.  The discourse changed and legally binding commitments were demanded from national governments to reduce emissions and limit warming to 1.5oC following an IPCC report.

Learning objectives:

  • To consider a range of facts and opinions on climate change.

  • To decide if we are in a climate crisis.

  • To understand what tipping points are and their impact on climate change.

Key Teaching Resources

The Climate Crisis PowerPoint
The Climate Crisis PowerPoint (easier)
The Climate Crisis Worksheet
The Climate Crisis Worksheet (easier)
Climate Crisis Global Effects Homework

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Climate Crisis_More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

Climate Negotiations in the Classroom resource

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

14. Changing UK Climate

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Climate

Past Climate ChangeChanging Global ClimateUK Climate Changing UK climate

Lesson overview: In this lesson we use the Central England Temperature record to explore changing UK weather and look at the projected impacts of climate change on the UK.

The UK climate has always changed and in over recent decades has become warmer. Over the coming century it is projected to become warmer and wetter in winter and hotter and drier in summer. Although change is unlikely to be dramatic, its cumulative impact will be significant and will affect human populations, landscapes and the natural world.  Adaptation and mitigation can help to ameliorate some of the negative impacts of our changing climate, though some populations, landscapes and ecosystems could be severely affected if the most extreme forecasts are realised

Learning objectives:

  • To understand how climate (precipitation and temperature) has changed over time in the UK

  • To be able to classify the potential impacts of changing climate on the UK.

Key Teaching Resources

Changing UK Climate PowerPoint
Changing UK Climate PowerPoint (easier)
Changing UK Climate Worksheet
Changing UK Climate Worksheet (easier)
Changing UK Climate Homework
Changing UK Climate Futures Homework

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Changing UK Climate_More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

How does climate change lead to changes in extreme weather?  (reference material)

Steart Marshes – looking at the evidence for developing salt marshes to protect land from rising sea levels. 

Graphs showing past and future changes in UK climate. Associated teaching resources can be found on the RGS website

3D print the Central England Temperature record and use it in lessons. 

Climate change in the UK and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

13. UK Climate

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Climate

Climate Zones – Past Climate ChangeChanging Global ClimateUK Climate

Lesson overview: In this lesson we revisit climate zones before exploring regional climate differences across the UK and the reasons for them.

Although the climate of the UK is largely Oceanic, some upland areas are Subpolar Oceanic and some small regions of Scotland are Subarctic or Tundra.  Physical factors including prevailing winds, topography, altitude, latitude, distance to the sea, aspect and urbanisation are the primary factors influencing smaller scale regional variations within the UK’s climate.

Learning objectives:

  • To understand how the UK’s climate varies regionally.

  • To be able to explain why the UK’s climate varies regionally.

  • To be able to relate the UK’s climate to where you live.

Key Teaching Resources

UK Climate PowerPoint
UK Climate Worksheet
UK Climate Graph Homework
Reasons for UK Climate Differences

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

UK Climate – More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

UK climate data exercise

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

12. Changing Global Climate

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Climate

Past Climate ChangePolar Climate – Hot Deserts – Changing Global Climate

Lesson overview: In this lesson we look at this historical relationship between carbon dioxide and global temperature and the Greenhouse Effect before moving on to consider future greenhouse gas emission scenarios.  

Greenhouse gases warm the Earth through intercepting the flow of heat from the Earth into space. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has co-ordinated research that shows unequivocally that global climate has changed as a result of the impact of humans on the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and other aspects of the climate system and will continue to do so.  Neither the magnitude nor impacts of climate change will be uniformly felt around the world. As our understanding of predicted impacts continues to improve so does our ability to prepare for them.  Uncertainty stems from several sources – the response of governments, human populations, complex interactions and feedback effects between different components of the climate system. 

Learning objectives:

  • To be able to describe the major changes to temperature and CO2 over short and longer periods of time.

  • To be able to explain global warming and reasons why climate changes.

  • To evaluate what might happen to CO2 levels and temperature in the future.

Key Teaching Resources

Changing Global Climate PowerPoint
Changing Global Climate PowerPoint (easier)
Changing Global Climate Worksheet
Changing Global Climate Worksheet (easier)
Changing global climates homework

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Changing Global Climate – More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

Changing climate: Climate stripes

Climate change graphs (basic)

Which regions have been affected the most by climate change (advanced)

Comprehension exercise – investigating the evidence for the impact of humans on climate (advanced)

 

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

11. Hot Deserts

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Climate

 Climate ZonesPast Climate ChangePolar Climate – Hot Deserts

Lesson overviewIn this lesson we look at the characteristics and locations of hot deserts and the adaptations of animals and vegetation found there.

Hot deserts have less than 250mm precipitation per year and daytime temperatures that may approach 50oC.   Hot deserts cover 14.2% of the Earth’s surface, their distribution largely determined by the global atmospheric circulation.   Physical factors such as altitude or latitude determine deserts with the most extreme values of precipitation/temperature. Their characteristics and distribution will change over long periods of time due to the Milankovitch cycles and Continental Drift.  Climate change is projected to have complex effects and the size of arid regions is expected to grow. The plants and animals that live in the deserts around the world have adapted to cope with the extreme climate.

Learning objectives:

  • To be able to describe the characteristics and location of at least one hot desert.

  • To understand why hot deserts are hot and dry.

  • To be able to draw and interpret a climate graph of a hot desert.

  • To understand animal and plant adaptations to the hot desert climate.

Key Teaching Resources

Hot Deserts PowerPoint
Hot Deserts PowerPoint (easier)
Hot Deserts Worksheet
Hot Deserts Making Plants and Animals
Hot Deserts Making Plants and Animals – Info sheet
Hot Deserts homework

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Hot Deserts_More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

Using GIS to investigate temperature extremes

 

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

10. Polar Climate

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Climate

Atmospheric and Oceanic CirculationClimate ZonesPast Climate Change Polar Climate

Lesson overviewIn this lesson we investigate why polar climates are so extreme and how it can be too cold to snow in Antarctica.

The extremes of Polar weather – the lowest temperatures on Earth and little precipitation – vary significantly throughout the year.  Antarctica has the harshest conditions, recording an annual mean low of nearly -60oC due to its elevation and distance from the sea.  Low levels of precipitation define Polar regions as deserts and it can be too dry to snow. The effects of climate change are amplified in these regions through feedback mechanisms which in turn affect global climate. 

Learning objectives:

  • To understand why it is cold in Polar regions.

  • To understand why our Polar regions are classified as deserts.

  • To be able to calculate mean temperature and total precipitation and interpret a climate graph

Key Teaching Resources

Polar Climate PowerPoint
Polar Climate PowerPoint (easier)
Polar Climate Worksheet
Polar Climate Worksheet (easier)
Beast from the East homework

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Polar Climate – More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

Using GIS to investigate temperature extremes

Drawing polar climate graphs to look for evidence of climate change

Changing polar climate (advanced) 

Impacts of polar climate change (advanced)

Comparing Arctic and global temperatures – data skills exercise – worksheet or Excel

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

6. Past Climate Change

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Basic weather/ Climate 

 Weather and Climate – Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation – Climate ZonesPast Climate Change 

Lesson overviewIn this lesson we look at how global temperatures have changed over the last 400,000 years and investigate volcanoes and the Milankovitch cycles as the drivers of change, in preparation for a more detailed look at anthropogenic climate change in later lessons. 

We know about the past climate of Earth from instrumental records and paleoclimatology in which we reconstruct global climate from proxy variables including air trapped in ice bubbles and preserved organic remains.  There are several major natural influences on the climate including the Milankovitch cycles, which describe the combined effect of changes to our planets orbit around the Sun, volcanic activity, the Sun and continental drift.  By understanding these, we are able to model past climates and improve our understanding of the Earth’s climate system.

Learning objectives:

  • To be able to describe the major changes to temperature over long periods of time.

  • To be able to explain why climate changes over time.

Key Teaching Resources

Past Climate Change PowerPoint
Past Climate Change PowerPoint (easier)
Past Climate Change Worksheet
Past Climate Change Worksheet (easier)
Little Ice Age Mystery Homework
Little Ice Age Mystery Homework (with key)
Little Ice Age Mystery (for Teachers)

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Past Climate Change – More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

Mystery: Why do we expect a white Christmas?

Using tree rings to explore past weather and climate 

Past Climate Change Teaching Resources

Using Leaves as Thermometers

Research exercise – looking for sources of evidence for past climate change (advanced)

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Climate

4 lessons to teach 11-14 climate with links to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence level 3

Produced by Suzanne Pritchard

Teaching Sequence
The four lessons introduce weather, climate, climate change and finally end with a debate about climate engineering.

5. Climate Zones

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Basic weather/ Climate 

Weather MeasurementsWeather and Climate – Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation – Climate Zones

Lesson overview: In this lesson we explore the main climate zones, their link to the global atmospheric circulation and the influence of the oceans.

Climate zones describe parts of the Earth that have similar climate – the characteristics of the seasonal variations in weather.  These relate to physical factors such as latitude and altitude, in association with their position relative to the global atmospheric and oceanic circulation. Although there are only five top-level categories – Tropical, Dry, Continental, Temperate and Polar – it is possible to define a total of 30 categories using the Köppen-Geiger classification system. This sytem considers a range of data that includes typical weather data such as temperature and precipitation and supplements this with evaluation of other variables such as soil temperature and the frequency of specific weather phenomena.  These data allow climatologists to differentiate between similar climates and describe the characteristics of specific climates very precisely.  Projections of climate change suggest climate zones show significant, though complex, change. 

Learning objectives:

  • To be able to describe the major world climate types.

  • To know where the world’s major climate types are found.

  • To understand what happens to precipitation and temperature with increasing distance from the sea.

Key Teaching Resources

Climate Zones PowerPoint
Climate Zones PowerPoint (easier)
Climate Zones Worksheet
Climate Zones Worksheet (easier)
Climate Zones Homework

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Climate Zones _More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resource

Climate and Ecosystems homework

Climate graph practice

More Climate graph practice – different climate zones

Climate Zones – introductory activities including practical demonstrations

Group project – create a poster or presentation for the climate and ecological zones of 3 places 

Activities using Weather and Climate data

Looking for evidence of changing climate zones (advanced)

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

4. Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Basic Weather, Climate 

Weather in our LivesWeather MeasurementsWeather and Climate – Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation

Lesson overviewIn this lesson we look at the pattern of circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, driven by the Sun.

 

What makes the whole atmosphere rotate and move? What gives us defined areas where it is generally dry or rainy, warm or cold, high pressure or low pressure? The answer to all these questions ultimately lies in the fact that we live on a spherical rotating planet, at some distance from the Sun. The incident energy from the Sun is unequally distributed between the Tropics and the Poles, with the precise patterns changing through the year. The Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are in constant motion to redistribute heat. Although temperature differences ultimately drive this, the patterns of circulation are influenced by the planet’s rotation and topography.

Learning objectives:

  • To understand why different parts of the world receive different amounts of energy from the Sun.
  • To understand how that difference in energy received by the Earth causes air and ocean water to move from equatorial regions to the poles. 
  • To be able to describe key features of how the air and water move around the globe.

Key Teaching Resources

Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation PowerPoint
Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation PowerPoint (easier)
Atmospheric Circulation Worksheet
Atmospheric Circulation Worksheet (easier)
Atmospheric Circulation Homework
Board Game

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Global Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation – More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

 

Rubber Ducks – An Unexpected Journey – Explore what the dispersion of a cargo of rubber ducks tells us about the ocean circulation.

 

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

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