MY NASA DATA Lesson:

Great Lakes Snow Analysis Collaborative Network

A scientist takes measurements in a snow pit

Image courtesy NASA GSFC

Purpose:
Interpret raw data on snow cover from the MY NASA DATA Website, interpret graphs, access internet data, analyze trends and patterns, and extrapolate data in a usable form.
Grade Level: 6 – 8
Estimated Time for Completing Activity: Two fifty minute class periods
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will extrapolate information from selected MY NASA DATA and NOAA websites
  • Students will compare data on snow and temperature in the Great Lakes
  • Students will analyze measurements from maps and raw data
  • Students will locate their school’s GPS coordinates using Google Earth
Prerequisite
Tools
  • Thermocrons (for extension activity ONLY)
  • Internet and MY NASA DATA Website
  • Google Earth
National Standards:
  • Science Content: A Science as Inquiry
  • Science Content: D Earth and Space Science
  • Science Content: E Science and Technology
Virginia Standards of Learning:
  • ES.1c: The student will plan and conduct investigations in which scales, diagrams, maps, charts, graphs, tables, and profiles are constructed and interpreted.
  • ES.2a: The student will demonstrate scientific reasoning and logic by analyzing how science explains and predicts the interactions and dynamics of complex Earth systems.
  • ES.3d: The student will investigate and understand how to read and interpret maps, globes, models, charts, and imagery. Key concepts include location by latitude and longitude and topographic profiles.
  • ES.13d: The student will investigate and understand that energy transfer between the sun and the Earth and its atmosphere drives weather and climate on Earth. Key concepts include weather phenomena and the factors that affect climate including radiation and convection.
  • LS.1: The student will plan and conduct investigations in which c) data are organized into tables showing repeated trials and means; h) continuous line graphs are constructed, interpreted, and used to make predictions; and i) interpretations from a set of data are evaluated and defended.
  • PS.1: The student will plan and conduct investigations in which b) length, mass, volume, density, temperature, weight, and force are accurately measured and reported using metric units (SI-International System of Units); h) data tables showing the independent and dependent variables, derived quantities, and the number of trials are constructed and interpreted; i)data tables for descriptive statistics showing specific measures of central tendency, the range of the data set, and the number of repeated trials are constructed and interpreted; j) frequency distributions, scattergrams, line plots, and histograms are constructed and interpreted; and k) valid conclusions are made after analyzing data.
  • PS.7: The student will investigate and understand temperature scales, heat, and heat transfer. Key concepts include Celsius and Kelvin temperature scales and absolute zero.
  • Sci6.1: The student will plan and conduct investigations in which c) precise and approximate measurements are recorded; h) data are collected, recorded, analyzed, and reported using appropriate metric measurements; and i) data are
    organized and communicated through graphical representation (graphs, charts, and diagrams).
  • Sci6.5: The student will investigate and understand the unique properties and characteristics of water and its roles in the natural and human-made environment.
  • Sci6.6: The student will investigate and understand the properties of air and the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Vocabulary:
Lesson Links:
Background:

The onset of winter in higher latitude regions of North America brings snow to the area around the Great Lakes (HOMES = Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior). The amount of snow is dependent on many variables. One of the most significant factors determining snowfall amount in the Great Lakes drainage basin is the surface temperature of the lakes.

During cold fronts, originating from the northwest, cold dry arctic air passes over warmer Great Lakes water. As air passes over the surface of the lakes, the air is heated. This warm air forms cumulus clouds. As this process evolves, water vapor is condensed into tiny droplets which form snowflakes. These clouds then produce heavy bands of snow over the lake and downwind from the shore.

In the Great Lakes area of the US, the lakes themselves contribute to the large amount of snow seen by the area. This is called lake effect snow. This lake effect snow is created when cold winds move across the warmer lake water. As the air moves across the long expanses of warm water, a large amount of moisture is picked up. As the air moves up in the atmosphere it now has enough moisture to produce snow in the cold conditions. This snow is often seen in bands as it moves across the great lakes area.

For more information on Lake Effect Snow see the lessons links above.

Procedure:

Part I: Access snow and ice data at MY NASA DATA website and compare two variables related to the Cryosphere

1. Click on the Live Access Server link in the lesson links section above
2. You should automatically be prompted with data parameter choices, if not click on ‘Choose Dataset’ found in the upper left corner of the screen.
3. Select Cryosphere, Check Monthly Snow and Ice Amount
4. Above the plot click the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’
5. From the menu at the top of the screen, select’ Compare’
6. Under your graph, select January 1994 and for one of the plots and January 2004 for the other. You may wish to change the Plot size to Large so that you can see details. After making any changes on this screen you will have to click on ‘Update Plots’ to see your changes.
7. To make the plots larger you can click on ‘Plot Options’ and change the ‘Plot Size’ to large.
8. Save or print your graphs for later use.

Part II: Access temperature data at MY NASA DATA website and compare two variables

1. Click on the Live Access Server link in the lesson links section above
2. You should automatically be prompted with data parameter choices, if not click on ‘Choose Dataset’ found in the upper left corner of the screen.
3. Then select Land Surface, Surface Conditions, and then Monthly Surface Clear Sky Temperature.
4. On left side, select Compare Two
5. Above the plot click the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’
6. From the menu at the top of the screen, select’ Compare’
7. Under your graph, select January 1994 and for one of the plots and January 2004 for the other. You may wish to change the Plot size to Large so that you can see details. After making any changes on this screen you will have to click on ‘Update Plots’.
8. To make the plots larger you can click on ‘Plot Options’ and change the ‘Plot Size’ to large.
9. Save or print your graphs for later use.

Part III: Using an atlas, map, or Google Earth, find the location of school(s) in Great Lakes Basin to narrow target of observation. (In our case, Detroit and Buffalo.) Then go back to the MY NASA DATA server:

1. Click on the Live Access Server link in the lesson links section above
2. You should automatically be prompted with data parameter choices, if not click on ‘Choose Dataset’ found in the upper left corner of the screen.
3. Select Cryosphere, Check Monthly Snow and Ice Amount
4. Above the plot click the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’
5. From the menu at the top of the screen, select’ Compare’
6. After making any changes on this screen you will have to click on ‘Update Plots’ to see your changes.
7. To make the plots larger you can click on ‘Plot Options’ and change the ‘Plot Size’ to large.
9. Change latitude coordinates to 62.0 N, 102.0 W, 58.0 W, 33.0 N to focus on Great Lakes region
10. Under one of the graphs, select January 1994 and change the other to January 2004 and click the ‘Update Plots’ button
11. Two graphs will appear. Save or print for later use.

Questions:

1. What difference do you observe in the percentage of snowfall for each of the graphs in your specific location?

2. What difference(s) do you observe in snowfall percentages in the Great Lakes Basin? Is this consistent with information for the snowfall amount from your specific location? Explain using your data.

3. What difference do you observe in the Great Lakes Basin temperatures? Is this consistent with the information for the temperature value from your specific location? Explain using your data.

Extensions:

1. Inquiry activity:
1.a. With your class or small group, research any climate conditions or possible world-wide climate/weather events that occurred between 1994 and 2004.
1.b.Describe conditions that may have influenced the warming and cooling of the Earth between these years, which resulted in a change (if any) in temperature values and snow and ice amount as indicated by your data for these two years?
1.c. What additional data would you need in order to investigate a ‘trend’ in temperatures and in snow-ice amount for the Great Lakes Basin?

2. Using the NASA History of Winter (HOW) website (see links), select How to Study Snowpits. Then view the Snowpit video, read the Snowpit protocol and complete with students.

3. ON NASA HOW website review Thermocron tutorial and procedures to complete an extension activity.

Lesson plan contributed by Kenneth Huff, NY and Dwight Sieggreen, MI

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