89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Sunday, 11 January 2009
An outline of the process needed for student understanding of hurricanes and El Niņo Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
Phoenix Convention Center
Karl C. Clarke, UCAR, Boulder, CO
As climate change more media attention, public interest in the possible connection between rising global temperatures and the severity of tropical cyclones is increasing. Research into this relationship is also increasing, but incorporating student research experiences on these topics into secondary schools have been slow. We hypothesized that a research-based approach to learning increases student understanding about severe storms. However, the first step towards encouraging them to conduct hurricane research and improve science education in the United States is to understand and address students' misconceptions of hurricanes.

This hypothesis commenced with the investigation of hurricane frequency during El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events between 1958 and 2007 in the six tropical cyclone basins (North Atlantic, Western North Pacific, Eastern North Pacific, North Indian, South Indian, and South Pacific). Data was gathered from international warning centers including the National Hurricane Center and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. In addition to the relationship study of hurricane frequency and ENSO events, sea-surface temperature was also considered.

The science described here was used as the basis for developing a survey to assess secondary school students' understanding of the two phenomena. Personal interviews involved 50 students from eight countries at the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment Learning Expedition in Cape Town, South Africa. It found that high school students' perception of basic hurricane formation, relationship to ENSO events and risks were accurate. However, 34% and 72% of the respondents respectively highlighted using student research to supplement academic/hurricane learning or wanted incorporating in-class exercises with practical field-based learning. This general under-standing opens up future research into assessing hurricane instructions on students' conception.

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