Mathematics and Climate

Introduction

Scientists use mathematics to better understand oceans, the atmosphere and polar ice caps. We invite you to explore the web to answer the questions to learn about math and climate:

• How long will summer Arctic sea ice survive?
• Are hurricanes getting more intense?
• How much will sea level rise as ice sheets melt?
• How do humans affect climate change?
• How is global climate monitored?

First, you will learn about climate change and global warming through web explorations. You will then explore sites with data to see how climate change and global warming are monitored. Next, you will then learn how humans affect global warming and what you can do to stop it. Lastly, you will apply your knowledge by solving related math problems. These tasks will require a computer, access to the web and paper and pencil.

The Process

Process Part I:  Learn About Climate Change and Global Warming

Process Part II:  How Global Warming and Climate Change are Monitored

Process Part III:  How Humans Impact on Global Warming and Climate Change

Process Part IV:  Apply Your Knowledge

1. Browse our lesson on Percent Increase and Decrease.
2. Complete the five interactive exercises at the end of this lesson.
3. Complete our Worksheet on Math and Climate (PDF), by math teacher Gisele Glosser.
4. Complete these Math Conversion Review Problems, by science teacher Frank Virzi.

Evaluation

1. Print the answer key for our worksheet from Process Part IV.
3. Check your answers to the problems by Frank Virzi (at bottom of page).
4. List three things you already do in your everyday life to help stop global warming.
5. List five new things you could be doing to help stop global warming.
6. List three things that are being done at your school to help stop global warming.
7. List five new things that could be done at your school to help stop global warming.

Conclusion

Congratulations! You learned about the issues of climate change and global warming through online explorations. You also learned how climate change and global warming are monitored. Most importantly, you learned how humans affect global warming, and things you can do to stop it.

Mathematics plays a crucial role in understanding climate change by providing the tools needed to model complex systems, analyze data, and make predictions about future trends. One key area where math is applied is in developing climate models, which simulate the interactions between various components of the Earth’s climate system, such as the atmosphere, oceans, land surfaces, and ice sheets. These models use mathematical equations based on fundamental principles of physics, chemistry, and biology to represent how energy and matter move through the Earth system.

Through mathematical modeling, scientists can explore different scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions, land use changes, and other factors influencing climate change. By running simulations with these models, researchers can assess the potential impacts of human activities on global temperatures, precipitation patterns, sea level rise, and other climate variables. This helps policymakers and stakeholders make informed decisions about mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Mathematics also plays a crucial role in analyzing observational data collected from satellites, weather stations, ocean buoys, and other sources. Techniques such as statistical analysis, time series analysis, and spatial modeling are used to detect trends, identify patterns, and quantify uncertainties in the data. Mathematical models are then used to interpolate or extrapolate these observations to fill in gaps and provide a more complete picture of past and present climate conditions.

Furthermore, mathematics enables scientists to quantify the uncertainty associated with climate predictions. Climate models involve numerous parameters and processes with inherent variability and uncertainty. Techniques such as Monte Carlo simulations, sensitivity analysis, and ensemble modeling are used to explore the range of possible outcomes and assess the confidence level of climate projections. This helps policymakers understand the risks and uncertainties associated with different climate scenarios and make decisions under uncertainty.

Mathematical tools are also essential for studying the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, economies, and human societies. Integrated assessment models combine climate models with economic, demographic, and social data to evaluate the costs and benefits of various mitigation and adaptation strategies. These models help policymakers prioritize actions and allocate resources effectively to minimize the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities and ecosystems.

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