Earth Science Project: Create an Ocean Weather Forecast

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Earth Science Project: Create an Ocean Weather Forecast
Earth Science Project:
Create an Ocean Weather
Forecast                                           Step #1: Form a Hypothesis
                                                   What Affects Ocean Temperatures?
                                                   Students hypothesize how temperatures
                                                   vary at the surface and see how the
Using real-time data provided by the               water temperature changes with depth
Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at
Rutgers University, students will monitor          Step #2: Analyze Data
changes to the ocean surface. By analyzing         How Do Sientists Collect and
wind direction and speed while looking at a        Analyze Ocean Temperature Data?
sea-surface temperature maps, students can         Students learn how to read and
predict a “bad” beach day or a “good” fishing      interpret satellite and CTD data. Using
day along the New Jersey coast.                    these two types of temperature data.

During summer months, coastal upwelling            Step#3: Outside Influences
can have a major impact on the water               How Do Atmospheric Conditions
conditions along the beach and in the coastal      Affect Ocean Temperatures?
                                                   Students analyze data collected from
ocean. Coastal upwelling occurs when cold,
                                                   the Meteorological Tower. They learn
nutrient-rich water moves up from the
                                                   how to plot wind direction and speed for
bottom layer of the ocean to the surface.          several days, and how the winds are
This cold layer of water is usually too cold to    related to ocean temperatures.
swim in. So an upwelling day is a “bad”
beach day. But it’s a good day for lots of         Step #4: Watch It Happen
marine life. As the cold bottom layer moves        What Is an Upwelling?
towards the surface, it carries an abundance       Students look at data that give evidence
of nutrients (“fish food”) with it. As these       of a coastal upwelling event.
nutrients reach the surface, many fish come
closer to shore to munch on all the goodies,       Step #5: Create a Forecast
therefore making it a “good” fishing day.          In this activity, students collect real-
                                                   time satellite and wind data over time
Students will interpret real-time of a coastal
                                                   and write their own “ocean weather
upwelling event and create their own ocean
weather forecast.

Middle School Earth Science

Assumption of Prior Knowledge:
Students will have learned:
• How winds are formed
• How to convert degrees Centigrade to and from Fahrenheit
• The directions on a map compass
• The degrees of a circle

c.o.o.l. project: earth science            Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                      Page 1
Four to five 45-50 minute sessions, plus 15 minutes a day for a 4-day project
interpreting real-time data

Lessons created by Tanya Podchaski - Bernardsville High School, and Lisa
Koch - Ocean County Vocational School

Edited by Amy Pallant and Debra Kovacs - Turnstone Publishing

Scientific content reviewed by Michael Crowley, Dr. Scott Glenn, and Sage
Lichtenwalner - IMCS-Rutgers University

Development supported with grant funds from the National Ocean
Partnership Program.

Standards and Frameworks

National Science Education Standards (NSES) Correlation

Content Area A - Scientific Inquiry
  • Scientists rely on technology to enhance the gathering and
     manipulation of data. New techniques and tools provide new evidence
     to guide inquiry and new methods to gather data, thereby contributing
     to the advance of science. The accuracy and precision of the data, and
     therefore the quality of the exploration, depends on the technology
  • Mathematics is essential in scientific inquiry. Mathematical tools and
     models guide and improve the posing of questions, gathering data,
     constructing explanations and communicating results.
  • Technology used to gather data enhances accuracy and allows
     scientists to analyze and quantify results of investigations.

Content Standard D - Earth and Space Science
  • Global patterns of atmospheric movement influence local weather.
     Oceans have a major effect on climate, because water in the oceans
     holds a large amount of heat.

Content Standard E - Science and Technology
  • Science and technology are reciprocal. Science helps drive
     technology, as it addresses questions that demand more sophisticated
     instruments, and provides principles for better instrumentation and
     technique. Technology is essential to science, because it provides
     instruments and techniques that enable observations of objects and
     phenomena that are otherwise unobservable.

c.o.o.l. project: earth science          Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                    Page 2
New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards

• 5.1: All students will learn to identify systems of interacting components
   and understand how their interactions combine to produce the overall
   behavior of the system (Cumulative Indicator 4,7,& 10)
• 5.2: All students will develop problem-solving, decision-making and
   inquiry skills, reflected by formulating usable questions and hypotheses,
   planning experiments, conducting systematic observations, interpreting
   and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating results.
   (Cumulative Indicator 6-15).
• 5.4: All students will develop an understanding of technology as an
   application of scientific principles. (Cumulative Indicator 6,8,9,10,11).
• 5.5: All students will integrate mathematics as a tool for problem-solving
   in science, and as a means of expressing and/or modeling scientific
   theories. (Cumulative Indicator 7).
• 5.9: All students will gain an understanding of natural laws as they apply
   to motion, forces, and energy transformations. (Cumulative Indicator
• 5.12: All students will develop an understanding of the environment as a
   system of interdependent components affected by human activity and
   natural phenomena. (Cumulative Indicator 6-10).

• 4.1: All students will develop the ability to pose and solve mathematical
  problems in mathematics, other disciplines, and everyday experiences.
  (Cumulative Indicators 10,12,15)
• 4.3: All students will connect mathematics to other learning by
  understanding the interrelationships of mathematical ideas and the roles
  that mathematics and mathematical modeling play in other disciplines and
  in life. (Cumulative Indicators 9,10).
• 4.7: All students will develop spatial sense and an ability to use geometric
  properties and relationships to solve problems in mathematics and in
  everyday life. (Cumulative Indicators 19,20,27).
• 4.9: All students will develop an understanding of and will use
  measurement to describe and analyze phenomena. (Cumulative
  Indicators 11-16).
• 4.10: All students will use a variety of estimation strategies and recognize
  situations in which estimation is appropriate. (Cumulative Indicators 8 &
• 4.11: All students will develop an understanding of patterns,
  relationships, and functions and will use them to represent and explain
  real world phenomena. (Cumulative Indicators 8,9,&11).

c.o.o.l. project: earth science          Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                    Page 3
Steps #1 & #2:
What Affects Ocean Temperature?
Form a Hypothesis and Analyze Data

Students will:
• Interpret and analyze sea surface temperature maps
• Interpret and analyze CTD data
• Speculate about the relationship of temperature changes in the ocean to
   the change in seasons

  • Printed copies of the Ocean Temperature Worksheet (one copy for
     each pair of students)
  • Notebook for students to answer questions

Classroom Implementation

Time Required: One 45-50 minute class session

Thematic Sequence:
This unit is best done following the review of the Control Room (See
Thematic Instructional Sequence p.8-9). If students have not done so,
suggest that they explore the COOL room introduction and the COOL cards
either as homework or as a class. Students should utilize the sampling
demonstration located HOW DOES THE COOL ROOM WORK? to illustrate the
benefits of continuous sampling. Background information within the site
illustrates that traditional oceanographic sampling techniques allow scientists
to only get ‘snapshots’ of what is taking place in the ocean, rather than a
complete, continuous picture. The COOL cards allow students to explore the
collaborative nature among biologists, oceanographers, and modelers within
the COOL room. Once the students understand what sensors are used and
what kind of data is produced, they may use the Sea Surface Temperature
maps, and meteorological data collected by the COOL room to understand
ocean currents.

Lesson and Activities:
Encourage students to develop their own hypothesis explaining what effects
ocean temperature. Differences in ocean water temperature are caused by
the heat of the sun. The surface layer of the ocean is the warmest because it
absorbs energy, or heat, from the sun. Most of the heat from the sun is
absorbed by the water in the first 100 meters (325 feet) of the ocean. Below
this depth, light and heat from the sun no longer penetrate, and the ocean
becomes colder and darker as you go deeper. If you could dive down
through the ocean with a thermometer, you would notice that the
temperature at the surface is the warmest, followed by a thinner layer of
water called the thermocline where the temperature rapidly decreases. Below

c.o.o.l. project: earth science           Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                     Page 4
the thermocline is a deeper layer of cold water where the temperature
changes very little with depth all the way to the bottom.

Begin the Sea Surface Temperature Images and CTD Temperature Images
Activities by dividing your class into pairs, and distributing one Ocean
Temperature Worksheet per pair. Make sure students go to all the links
provided. These links explain how to interpret the Satellite and CTD data.
After students have gone to the tutorials, you may want to interpret the first
data set (one satellite and one CTD data set) as a whole class for each of
these sections. Then have each pair complete the activity. At the end of this
activity, students should be able to describe trends in changes of Ocean
Water Temperature through the seasons.

Once students have completed the worksheets, discuss their answers. See
the Ocean Temperatures Worksheet answer key for answers to the questions
posed to the students.
Have volunteers read their descriptions, explaining how satellite and CTD
data can be used to explain the changes in ocean temperatures over the

c.o.o.l. project: earth science           Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                     Page 5
Step 2: Analyze Data
B.1) Ocean Temperature Worksheet

Satellite Images

Using the four satellite images answer the questions in your lab journals.
Notice that the temperature scales are different in each image (for example,
the color red may represent different temperatures in different images).
Areas colored white represent clouds.

1. What color on the satellite images is used to show the warmest water?
   What color is used to show the coldest water?
2. During what months is the ocean the warmest? The coldest? Why?
3. Is the water right along the coastline warmer or colder than the water
   further offshore? Why? Is this true for all of the images?
4. Notice that the water temperature is warmer at the bottom right corner of
   all of the images. Can you think of a reason why this warmer water
   would be present further out in the ocean all through the year?

CTD Data

1. What types of data does a CTD record?
2. How cold is the water at 4 meters depth in December? In June? Is there
   a big difference? If so, why?
3. What happens to the temperature of the water in June as you move from
   the surface down towards the bottom? What happens to the salinity as
   you move deeper? Do you notice this same pattern for the other months?
4. Write a short paragraph describing the relationship between temperature,
   salinity, and depth based on the CTD graphs.

CTD Data and Satellite Images

Using the your new knowledge of how to read satellite temperature images
and CTD data graphs, write a two-paragraph description of how both types of
data would be useful to scientists.

c.o.o.l. project: earth science          Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                    Page 6
Step 2: Analyze Data
B.1) Ocean Temperature Worksheet
(Answer Key)

Satellite Images

1. The warmest water is shown as red, and the coldest water is shown as

2. The ocean off the coast of New Jersey is warmest during the summer
   months, and coldest during the winter months. It’s warmer in the
   summer because there are more hours of sunlight during the day
   compared to days during the winter. The sun is shining more directly on
   the northern hemisphere for more hours per day, allowing the ocean to
   absorb more heat. In the winter, the sun shines for less hours a day, and
   at a lower angle to the northern hemisphere, contributing less heat to the
   ocean and allowing it to cool.

3. During the warmer months of the year, the water along the coast is
   warmer than water further offshore because the water along the coast is
   shallower, and is more quickly heated by the sun. This may not be the
   case in late winter and early spring (Dec-Mar) when shallow water along
   the coast loses heat and becomes as cold, or even colder, than
   temperatures further offshore. An analogy could be placing a tray of
   water under a heat lamp. The water would heat up and stay warm unless
   the lamp was removed, at which point the water would cool down.

4. The warmer water visible in the lower right corner of every image is the
   edge of the Gulf Stream, a current of warm water that travels north along
   the coast from the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Stream carries warm water
   northward very close to the Atlantic coastline throughout the year.
   However, as the Gulf Stream passes north of North Carolina, the current
   is deflected to the northeast and moves further away from the coast, as
   seen in these images.

CTD Data

1. A CTD records conductivity (a measurement of salinity, or saltiness of the
   water), temperature, and depth.

2. The water at 4 meters depth in December is about 2 degrees Celsius, or
   36 degrees Fahrenheit. In June, it’s about 21 Celsius, or 70 Fahrenheit.
   Yes, this is a big difference, caused by the sun heating up the water closer
   to the surface during the late spring and throughout the summer, as is
   seen here in June.

c.o.o.l. project: earth science           Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                     Page 7
3. In June, the water temperature decreases as you move from the surface
   towards the bottom. The salinity increases as you move deeper. This
   same pattern is seen for all of the months shown except December, when
   the thermocline disappears and the water from top to bottom is evenly
   mixed. During the warmer months that have more rain, there is more
   freshwater coming from the land into the ocean near the coast. This
   freshwater mixes with the warmer surface water, lowering the salinity,
   but does not mix with the colder water below the thermocline because of
   the difference in density between the two temperature layers.

4. Based on the CTD graphs, students should write a paragraph expressing
   their understanding of how temperature and salinity can change with
   depth. Their understanding should include the “take home” message that
   not all water in the ocean has the same characteristics, and that several
   factors influence the ocean water in any given area, including
   temperature, salinity, and ultimately the seasons and atmosphere.

c.o.o.l. project: earth science         Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                   Page 8
Step 3: Outside Influences –
How do Atmospheric Conditions Affect Ocean

Student will:
• Understand how wind direction is measured using a compass
• Learn how to graph the direction and speed of wind
• Understand that wind impacts the motion of ocean surface water

For each pair:
   • Full-circle or semicircular protractor (a full-circle protractor works
      better and is preferred, but a semi-circular one will work as well)
   • Copies of the Wind Speed & Direction Worksheet
   • Calculator (optional)
   • Notebook for students to answer questions

Classroom Implementation

Time Required: One or two 45-minute class sessions.

Lesson and Activities: Have the students view all the tutorials and the
science background before they begin this activity. Print enough worksheets
for your class to work in pairs.

Have students begin by reading the Introduction and viewing the necessary
tutorials. Distribute a protractor to each pair. Then, as a class, practice
plotting some wind directions using the compass. This activity works best if
you plot a set of data with your students so they understand how to place
the protractor on the graph in order to plot the data.

Have the students follow the steps as outlined in the activity to plot the data
on the worksheet. Students should understand that there is a difference
between the measured degree of wind direction and the direction that the
scientists in the COOLroom use to graph the data. The wind is measured as
the direction it is coming from, but it is graphed as the direction it is moving
towards (the opposite direction). This is why they need to add or subtract
180 degrees from the measured direction. This may not necessarily be how
wind direction is measured universally, but this is how it is measured at the
COOLroom. Unless the students calculate it in that fashion, they will be
confused when they look at the real-time wind data on the COOLroom web

When they complete the graphs, collect them and post the graphs on the
wall. Have students look at the graphs and hypothesize about what the

c.o.o.l. project: earth science            Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                      Page 9
weather might be like each day. If you have time, discuss students’
responses to the question of how winds affect the movement of ocean water.

c.o.o.l. project: earth science        Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                 Page 10
Step 3: Outside Influences
E.2) Wind Speed and Direction Worksheet

        Date            Wind Speed (mph)   Wind Direction - from    Wind Direction -
                                                (degrees)          towards (degrees)

       Day 1                      15                10
       Day 2                      5                260
       Day 3                      10               160
       Day 4                      25               190
       Day 5                      5                 75
       Day 6                      20               325

c.o.o.l. project: earth science            Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                     Page 11
Step 3: Outside Influences
E.2) Wind Speed and Direction Worksheet
(Answer Key)

        Date            Wind Speed (mph)   Wind Direction - from    Wind Direction -
                                                (degrees)          towards (degrees)

       Day 1                      15                10                   190
       Day 2                      5                260                    80
       Day 3                      10               160                   340
       Day 4                      25               190                    10
       Day 5                      5                 75                   255
       Day 6                      20               325                   145

c.o.o.l. project: earth science            Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                     Page 12
Steps #4 & 5#: Watch It Happen and Create A Forecast

Students will:
• Interpret satellite images off the New Jersey coastline and describe an
   upwelling event
• Analyze wind speed and direction during an upwelling event
• Interpret real-time data and create a local ocean weather forecast

  • Copies of the Ocean Forecast Worksheet and the two Data Sheets
  • Notebook for students to answer questions

Classroom Implementation

Time Required: Two 45-50 minute class sessions plus 15 minutes a day for
3-4 days to conduct a project interpreting real-time data.

Lesson and Activities: In this final lesson, students will be engaged in a
series of real-time data interpretation activities. Before students begin the
activity, spend some time looking at the data sets they will be interpreting
and visiting the tutorial on upwelling. Prior to beginning this activity,
students should complete the previous activities (interpreting satellite images
and CTD graphs to determine water temperature, and how to graph and
interpret wind data). If they have not, or are not yet comfortable with
interpreting data, have the students visit the tutorials again.

Divide the class into student pairs. Distribute the Ocean Weather Forecast
Worksheet. Review students’ prior knowledge of reading satellite images and
CTD graphs and graphing wind direction. If some students need more
practice with these skills, have them go through the upwelling tutorial.
Understanding the concept of upwelling and having mastery of these skills
are both key to the lesson.

After students have completed the tutorial, discuss why different people such
as surfers, swimmers, fisherman, or members of the Coast Guard might be
interested in learning when upwellings occur. Surfers and swimmers most
likely do not appreciate upwellings because the cold water upwelled to the
surface can make it very uncomfortable to swim, even in the middle of the
summer. Fisherman would be more likely to appreciate an upwelling
because the upwelled cold water brings nutrients to the surface, causing
phytoplankton to grow. The phytoplankton can fuel the food chain,
ultimately attracting larger fish to the area. Then have students continue
with the activity.

Towards the end of the activity, students will be asked to create an Ocean
Weather Forecast. Go to the Rutgers Upwelling Index

c.o.o.l. project: earth science           Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                    Page 13
( so that you
can help students think about ideas for the forecast.

After students have completed the activity, have each pair present their
forecast. Finally, have students determine whether or not the class should go
swimming, fishing, or neither off the coast of New Jersey over the coming

c.o.o.l. project: earth science          Ocean Weather Forecast Instructor Notes                                                   Page 14
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