Detecting El Nino in Sea Surface Temperature Data

This multi-part activity introduces users to normal seasonal sea surface temperature (SST) variation as well as extreme variation, as in the case of El NiÃo and La NiÃa events, in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Via a THREDDS server, users learn how to download seasonal SST data for the years 1982 to 1998. Using a geographic information system (GIS), they visualize and analyze that data, looking for the tell-tale SST signature of El Nino and La Nina events that occurred during that time period. At the end, students analyze a season of their own choosing to determine if an El NiÃo or La NiÃa SST pattern emerged in that year's data.

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David Smith
Betsy Youngman
Earth Exploration Toolbook Chapter from TERC
Activity takes between four and six 45-minute class periods. Computer access is necessary.

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Requires use of My World GIS. Must be downloaded for free trial or purchased for $99 for a classroom license.

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