ALEX Learning Activity

Historical Climate Analysis Activity

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Virginia Hall
System:Mobile County
School:Mary G Montgomery High School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1871
Historical Climate Analysis Activity
Digital Tool/Resource:
Celsius to Fahrenheit Online Converter
Web Address – URL:

The object of this activity is to demonstrate the concept of climate change. Historical climate data has been used to show a local area in central England to represent an entire time frame. This learning activity incorporates temperature conversions, graphing, graphical analysis and extensions into the Medieval Warm Period. 

This activity results from the ALEX Resource Gap Project.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
MA2015 (2016)
Grade: 9-12
Algebra I
4 ) Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multistep problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays. [N-Q1]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
M.AAS.Q.HS.4- Using real world models, express quantities of measurement to the given precision. (limited to measurements of length (inch, 1/2 inch, 1/4 inch), weight (pounds, kilograms (tenth of a unit), volume (cup, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, liter), temperature (degree), velocity (mph, kmph).

Literacy Standards (6-12)
LIT2010 (2010)
Grade: 9-10
Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects
1 ) Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.

SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 9-12
Earth and Space Science
14 ) Construct explanations from evidence to describe how changes in the flow of energy through Earth's systems (e.g., volcanic eruptions, solar output, ocean circulation, surface temperatures, precipitation patterns, glacial ice volumes, sea levels, Coriolis effect) impact the climate.

Digital Literacy and Computer Science
DLIT (2018)
Grade: 9-12
R5) Locate and curate information from digital sources to answer research questions.

Learning Objectives:

The student will be able to analyze climate data to recognize climate trends.

The student will be able to construct graphical representations of climate data.

The student will be able to convert from one temperature measurement to another using the climate data.

The student will be able to construct explanations of how volcanic eruptions, surface temperatures, and solar output impact the climate.

The student will be able to recognize patterns in climate data and make logical predictions as to how this might impact future climate.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  
Before/Engage, During/Explore/Explain

For complete lab handouts click this link.     access code: earth

Materials: Graph paper, ruler, pen, pencil, calculator (Optional: BYOD device, Internet connection) 

Step 1 Procedure:

  1. Plot on graph paper, time (year) on the x axis and temperature (oC) on the y axis.
  2. Ensure that you scale appropriately, correctly label the X and Y-axes, and properly title the graph.  

The following information shows the average winter temperature in central England from 900–1900 AD.

Year            900    950  1000  1050  1100  1150  1200  1250  1300  1350

Temp (º C)  3.45  3.55  3.62   3.69   3.58   3.69   4.12   4.09   4.05  3.81

Year           1400  1450  1500  1550  1600  1650  1700  1750  1800  1850  1900

Temp (º C) 3.63   3.46   3.65   3.50   3.21   3.18   3.38   3.55   3.47   3.66   3.97

Historical climate data chart reproduced with permission from the Annenberg Foundation.

Step 2 Procedure:

1. Mathematical Extension: Convert oC to oF from the data table above

2. You can either use the Temperature Conversion Website or the formulas listed below: 

T(°F) = T(°C) × 9/5 + 32  or   T(°F) = T(°C) × 1.8 + 32

Step 3 Procedure: Graph the same data with the temperature now in oF

  1. Plot on graph paper, time (year) on the x axis and temperature (oC) on the y axis.
  2. Ensure that you scale appropriately, correctly label the X and Y-axes, and properly title the graph.  


Assessment Strategies:

Visual for Graphical Analysis: The graphs should be the same shape with the same trends.  If not, then this indicates that the student either (1) did not convert correctly or (2) the student did not graph correctly or (3) both of the above.  Since this is easily seen with a quick look at the graphs, it can be quickly corrected and the student put back on the correct path.

Once graphs have been plotted Questions:

1. The period 1550-1700 in Europe is known as the Little Ice Age. Cite graphical data (from the above graph) to support this claim. POSSIBLE ANSWER: The Average Winter Temperature (Celsius) in Central England graph shows a decisively downward trend in the climate data at this point in time (1550-1700). At the lowest point it is 0.32oC lower than at the start of the 1550 period.

2. Observe the graph, what is the overall trend of the entire graph (use words like increase, decrease, glacial and inter-glacial in the answer)? POSSIBLE ANSWER: At the beginning of the graph the data shows an upward trend (with a slight decrease) from 900-1200. This could indicate an inter-glacial period in time. The time frame from 1200-1500 shows a warm period in the graph (with a slight dip noted). However the time frame also indicates that the temperatures were cooling from its highest around 1200.  This could indicate a glacial period is about to occur. In the years 1550-1700 the temperature decreases quickly indicating a glacial period (due to temperatures).  From 1700 to 1900 (when the graph stops) the temperature was indicating an increase in temperature. This indicates an inter-glacial period. In 1900 when the graph stops, the temperature was still lower at 3.97oC than the highest at 4.12oC in 1200.

3. Postulate a theory as to why the temperature during this time frame is so cold (REMEMBER you may have to do outside research to help finish this question)?  POSSIBLE ANSWER: The time frame from 900 to 1900 indicates two periods of time. First is the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age.  The time of the Little Ice Age 1150-1700 was, according to Global Temperatures (2500 BC to 2007 AD) from the chart, a very cold time on the planet. There were at least 90 major volcanic eruptions during this time with 4 in 1660 alone. The solar irradiation was decreased due to the amount of volcanic debris and the temperatures on the planet dropped. During the Little Ice Age, the Maunder Minimum, also known as the "prolonged sunspot minimum", (1645-1715) occurred. This time frame was when sunspots became exceedingly rare, as noted by solar observers of the time. The observers reported fewer than 50 sunspots. Modern amounts are around 40,000-50,000 for the same time frame. With volcanic activity increasing, sunspot activity decreasing and volcanic debris blocking solar radiation, the temperatures decreased in this area.

Reflection Question (Writing):

Support this statement: “To predict the climate of the future, one must know the climate of the past.” (Cite evidence) POSSIBLE ANSWER: In the Question #3 in the previous question set, the data reported came from the past. The current climate predictions, use past data collected as well as current data and then feed that data into climate model predictors to see the trends that might develop.  Climate changes how species interact with one another—and not just today or in the future, but also in the past. Scientists study trends from fossil records to understand how climate change impacted the past and to identify ways to predict how things may change in the future. Climate modeling occurs because we want to know how to respond to the changes that are occurring around us.  However, if the future is highly novel and difficult to model, then it’s also hard to predict.


Advanced Preparation:

The links below provide the original locations for information provided in the activity.  The Annenberg Foundation was kind enough to allow me to use the table provided in the activity.  The online conversion link is where temperature conversions can be made; you may want to become familiar with what the website looks like prior to activity.  The Climate Depot website is a link to information that can be used to answer some of the questions in the activity.  You may want to read the entire article before the activity.  It has good information that you may choose to incorporate into your lesson.  The Science Reporter is the same as the Climate Depot. It is also a link to information that can be used to answer some of the questions in the activity.  You may want to read the entire article before the activity.  It has good information that you may choose to incorporate into your lesson. 

“Courses Environmental Science Support Guide Unit 12: The Habitable Planet.” Annenberg Learner, The Annenberg Foundation, 2017,

Fogt., Robert. “Temperature Conversion.” Online Conversion - Temperature Conversion, Online Conversion, 23 Feb. 2018,

Marohasy, Jennifer, and Mark Morano. “New Study: ‘Multiple Lines of Evidence’ Show Medieval Warm Period Was Warmer than Today.” Climate Depot,, 22 Aug. 2017, 1:07AM,

SCIENCE REPORTER. “Tree-Rings Prove Climate Was WARMER in Roman and Medieval Times than It Is Now - and World Has Been Cooling for 2,000 Years.” Daily, Associated Newspapers Ltd, 20 July 2012, 18:51 EST,

Review BYOD/Internet acceptable use policies established either by teacher, school, district, or a variation of the above.

Variation Tips (optional):

Extension Question: 

From 1150-1350 AD the graph (created within the activity) indicates a warm period.  This is known as the Medieval Warm Period. Since industrialization had not occurred yet, what are some logical deductions as to what may have contributed to this warming period? Compose a viable response with at least two credible explanations. (Cite evidence.) POSSIBLE ANSWER:  The time frame from 900 to 1900 indicates two periods of time. First is the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age.  Possible causes of the Medieval Warm Period include increased solar activity, decreased volcanic activity, and changes to ocean circulation. The Medieval Warm Period, corresponds to a period of high solar activity; a time when sunspots occurred in abundance. This time frame also indicates few volcanic eruptions that would interfere with solar radiation reaching the planet.  Both the high frequency of sunspots and the decrease in volcanic activity would be credible reasons for the Medieval Warm Period.

Notes or Recommendations (optional):

Recommend reading information from the links listed.

Important Points:

· Scientists have evidence that the global climate has changed in the past. Climate is subjective, it has/had natural changes (even before the idea of greenhouse gas emissions).

· Global temperature is gradually changing according to the long-term temperature records.

· The climate is a very complex system; therefore, there are no accurate predictions of what will happen to the Earth’s climate with an increase in CO2 levels (greenhouse gas).

 · Climatologists have been using a combination of mathematical models, the geological record of past climates, meteorological records and theories on the global atmospheric and oceanic circulation to provide an estimate for past, current, and future values.

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