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Global Climate Change Education (GCCE): Sunspots and Thermal Islands

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Monday, 24 January 2011
Global Climate Change Education (GCCE): Sunspots and Thermal Islands
Washington State Convention Center
Michael R. Witiw, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Worldwide, Everett, WA; and R. J. Myers

The Earth System Science Educational Alliance (ESSEA) through the Institute of Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) has developed a series of modules on Earth system science topics. To date, over 80 educational modules have been developed. The primary purpose of these modules is to provide graduate courses for teacher education (inquiry-based geoscience courses for in- and pre-service teachers). A course designed for teachers typically consists of from three to five modules. Course delivery methods range from totally online to a hybrid method which combines some classroom time with online learning. Recently, under NASA's Global Climate Change Education (GCCE) initiative, IGES was tasked to develop 16 new climate literacy modules. Two of the modules recently developed under this program address the topics of sunspots and thermal islands. Sunspots is a problem-based learning module in which students are provided resources and sample investigations related to the topic. The history of sunspot observations, the structure of sunspots and the possible role sunspots may have in Earth's climate are explored. Students are then asked to determine what effects a continued minimum in sunspot activity may have on the climate system. The Thermal Islands module addresses the heat island effect of large metropolitan areas. How heat islands are produced and the role of urban heat islands in exacerbating heat waves are two of the topics covered in the resources. In this problem-based learning module, students are asked to think of mitigating strategies for these thermal islands as Earth's urban population grows over the next 50 years.