EARTH FUTURES – LABORATORY 2: EXPLORING HISTORICAL

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EARTH FUTURES – LABORATORY 2: INITIAL CLIMATE ANALYSIS OF YOUR
REGION
PART 1: IS THERE AN URBAN “HEAT ISLAND” EFFECT IN THE
HISTORICAL TEMPERATURE RECORD?
The United States collects temperature and precipitation data from hundreds of stations
across the country. These data are collected in order to provide a better forecast of the
weather and to tell citizens what current conditions are like across the country. These
same records are then utilized to determine climate change. Unfortunately, the
determination of climate change requires that we have long-term consistent
measurements of temperature and precipitation. Many scientists have stated that data
from cities must be discarded because of the growth of buildings and concrete around the
stations over the last century, creating a so-called “urban heat island” effect. Your first
task is to develop a method or strategy to determine if the urban heat island effect is
real in your region of the country and then to carry out this strategy to determine
the actual extent of the effect in your region. Please describe the strategy you
propose and then provide data as to the effect.
DATA FOR YOUR USE: Monthly station “normals” of temperature, precipitation, and
heating and cooling days are provided for at least 4 states in your region. These files
contain a list of stations in these states (and a map with their location) and then monthly
average records for the period 1961-1990. This thirty-year period is defined as the
“normal” climate.
PART 2: WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE HAS OCCURRED IN YOUR REGION
OVER THE LAST 50 TO 100 YEARS?
The US temperature and precipitation records have been carefully “scrubbed” to remove
stations with poor records, urban heat island effects, and measurement problems. The
remaining set of observations is the basis for determining whether the climate in the US
has changed during the last century. A map of these station locations are provided so that
you can explore the temperature and precipitation changes in your region. Your second
task is to explore these records for your region and determine whether there is
evidence of change. Be careful to determine what type of changes occurred in your
region (e.g. are the temperature changes in summer or winter, and are they in
minimum or maximum values). Summarize your findings in your lab report. Feel
free to add conclusions about evidence for global warming in your region.
DATA FOR YOUR USE: Map-based monthly averages – both plots for each station and
the actual data are available for your use.
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