This project is no longer funded and will not be updated.

Global Temperatures


As a research scientist working for the U.S. Panel on Global Climate Change Research, you and your colleagues have been collecting data in the field for months. You’ve studied research on varying aspects of Earth’s diverse ecosystems, and your colleagues are now gathering to share their experiences and preliminary findings with the rest of the group.

With a major international conference looming, it’s time for all of you to analyze the data to formulate a comprehensive report on global climate change on planet Earth.


The time series shows the progression of changing global surface temperatures from 1884 to 2010. Dark blue indicates areas cooler than average. Dark red indicates areas warmer than average. Data source:  NASA/GISS Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization StudioThis conference requires more than a standard report citing data and displaying results in tables and graphs. Analysis of the data will be required to fully present an accurate picture of the state of the planet’s climate and trends that have been the focus of heated controversy and debate for the last decade. As a scientist, you naturally look at the data from purely objective perspectives.

Given the ongoing controversy surrounding the recorded rise in Earth’s global mean temperatures, your team will have to provide some concrete analysis of temperature data for the report to the international commission.

Remember: Each research team is analyzing a global climate change indicator. Your indicator, global mean temperatures, will be an important component to the overall climate change picture.

In order to present accurate, complete, and valid findings, you will:

  1. Analyze data and identify any trend that occurred in global mean temperatures.

    Think “before and after” to help you identify a big picture of the temperature on Earth and the changes that may have occurred over decades.

  2. What are the impacts of this change? Remember to report the impacts to humans, wildlife, ecosystems, etc.

    Impacts of changes in environmental temperatures are long reaching and possibly slow to develop. This doesn’t mean they are not significant. Look at the long-range effects. The International Panel on Climate Change will need to know impending impacts in order to plan for the future.

  3. What appears to be the source(s) of the changes? Can you identify a major cause?

    This is very important to understanding the mechanisms that drive the change and, therefore, important to finding ways to deal with those causes.

  4. What strategies do you see that could mitigate or lessen the change? How long would they take to make a difference? What are the pros and cons of the approach?