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Teacher’s Questions for Climate’s Troublesome Kids

SCIENCE

Before reading:

1. What’s the difference between climate and weather?

2. Explain what you know about the climate events El Niño and La Niña.

During reading:

1. During an El Niño, what happens to the northern trade winds in the Pacific Ocean? How does this impact sea surface temperatures in the Pacific?

2. What does “Southern Oscillation” refer to?

3. During a La Niña, what happens to the northern trade winds in the Pacific Ocean? How does this impact sea surface temperatures in the Pacific?

4. During an El Niño, what kind of weather can people living along the coast of South America typically expect? What kind of weather can people living in Australia typically expect?

5. Explain what scientists can — and can’t — predict about El Niños and La Niñas.

6. Explain the difference between weather and climate.

7. Describe one of the challenges climate scientists face when determining what is “normal” for an El Niño.

8. Describe how the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean array can be used to detect the arrival of an El Niño.

9. How does the GRACE satellite keep track of where water is in the world? How does this help scientists studying El Niños and La Niñas?

10. Why does the risk of wildfire in Southeast Asia increase during an El Niño?

11. What is global warming? How, if at all, does it affect El Niño and La Niña?

12. Why are poorer countries more likely to experience major civil unrest during an El Niño or a La Niña?

After reading:

1. What types of disasters can an El Niño or a La Niña trigger?

2. Do you think that 100 years from now, climate scientists will be better able to predict El Niño and La Niña behavior and frequency? Explain your answer.

3. What can communities or even countries do to better cope with the type of climate changes that ENSO events bring? Hint: What types of preparations, warnings or changes to behavior would reduce the risks that communities now face?

SOCIAL STUDIES

1. Have you noticed that where you live, some years have more rainfall than others? Can you determine whether these changes correspond to El Niño or La Niña events? What type of impacts to cities, farms and companies are linked to those rainfall changes? Which of them worsen — or cost more — during periods of ENSO events?

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