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The Ocean's Role in Weather and Climate

Six countries around the world are working on computer models on climate The Effects of the Atlantic Ocean!
The first of two Web Seminars about the Ocean's Role in Weather and Climate was held on Tuesday, December 12, 2006, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Dr. Tom Delworth, leader of NOAA's Climate Dynamics and Prediction Group at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ. The seminar focused on the influence of the Atlantic Ocean on climate, from Atlantic hurricanes to African drought.

Ninety-seven (97) participants were present in addition to the presenter and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Some of the participants attended the symposium on the same topic at the Area Conference in Baltimore.

In this presentation educators had the opportunity to learn about the influence of the Atlantic Ocean on regional weather and climate. As water circulates through the Atlantic Ocean, from the tropics to higher latitudes, energy is transported in the form of heat. This transported energy is equal to the amount of energy required to support the electricity consumption of the United States population for 2000 years. Not only is the Atlantic Ocean the cradle for the formation of hurricanes, storms that move from east to west over the ocean, but data also shows that the sea surface temperature changes in the Atlantic Ocean are responsible for droughts taking place in the African continent. Dr. Delworth described how scientists are using computer models to forecast future weather patterns, like the possible number of hurricanes and drought conditions.

How does the model compare to the actual data on precipitation?

Data collected by scientists over the last 100 years show an increase in the sea surface temperature of the Atlantic Ocean. This increase in sea surface temperature can be related to the increase in greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere due to the consumption of fossil fuels, Dr. Delworth explained. Computer models show, that without changing our consumption levels, the sea surface temperature of the Atlantic Ocean will continue to increase. This increase in temperature can affect negatively people, plants, and animals living in the ocean and in coastal areas around the world. All participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide on the Effects of Oceans on Weather and Climate, grades 9-12.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:
  • "Fantastic information about climate modeling and how the North Atlantic warming affects so much."
  • "Fits very nicely in oceanography, and meteorology. We're getting ready to start a global warming unit where I will actually have my kids take a side and defend their arguments."
  • "My students are constantly asking questions about global warming and other current topics. This discussion has presented the most current information in a format that was readily accessible."
  • "In sixth grade, driven by the state standards, we are very interested in this topic. This seminar and ones like it help me better understand the topic, and therefore be a better facilitator to student understanding."

Thanks to the participants and the presenter for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!


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