In this activity, students create graphs of real temperature data to investigate climate trends by analyzing the global temperature record from 1867 to the present. Long-term trends and shorter-term fluctuations are both evaluated. The data is examined for evidence of the impact of natural and anthropogenic climate forcing mechanisms on the global surface temperature variability. Students are prompted to determine the difficulties scientists face in using this data to make climate predictions.

This teaching activity addresses regional variability as predicted in climate change models for the next century. Using real climatological data from climate models, students will obtain annual predictions for minimum temperature, maximum temperature, precipitation, and solar radiation for Minnesota and California to explore this regional variability. Students import the data into a spreadsheet application and analyze it to interpret regional differences. Finally, students download data for their state and compare them with other states to answer a series of questions about regional differences in climate change.

This is the first of nine lessons in the Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change website. This lesson is an introduction to Earth's climate and covers key principles regarding Earth's unique climate, atmosphere, and regional and temporal climate differences.