National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Carbon Tracker

Contributor
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Lab: Global Monitoring Division National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Lab: Global Monitoring Division
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Model , Simulation
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

CarbonTracker is a CO2 measurement and modeling system developed by NOAA to keep track of sources (emissions to the atmosphere) and sinks (removal from the atmosphere) of carbon dioxide around the world. CarbonTracker uses atmospheric CO2 observations from a host of collaborators and simulated atmospheric transport to estimate these surface fluxes of CO2. The current release of CarbonTracker,  provides global estimates of surface-atmosphere fluxes of CO2 from January 2000 through December 2012.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • High School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

HS-ESS2-6 Develop a quantitative model to describe the cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on modeling biogeochemical cycles that include the cycling of carbon through the ocean, atmosphere, soil, and biosphere (including humans), providing the foundation for living organisms.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This resource is a visual model that combines carbon source and sink data and displays the combined results on a globe. Students can use the visualization to develop a model of the cycling of carbon among the various spheres. A tutorial is included that explains what the Carbon Tracker is, how it works, the data it uses to develop the simulations, and how the model was developed. The tutorial may help students get a better understanding of what the data really means in the model and why this model is constantly changing. After exploring the data in this visual model, students can begin to develop proficiency with the performance expectation by developing a model that is consistent with the data but extended the model to future years. Patterns should be observed in the data that allows students to develop the model for future years.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This resource displays the combined carbon source and sink data from a host of collaborators. Students can see a visual representation of authentic carbon data on a globe. Based on the evidence gained from a variety of carbon data sources, students can begin to develop a model of the relationships between the various spheres of the Earth. A student model of world atmospheric carbon concentration could include several global views of the Earth (at different times of the year - winter, spring, summer, and fall) that show the high /low locations for atmospheric carbon. Using the Flux portion of the Carbon Tracker (http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/carbontracker/fluxtimeseries.php), students can analyze the data in greater detail. The Flux data can be analyzed by geographic area and type (land, ocean, fossil, and fire). Students could focus on changes in the fire flux and research large-scale fires.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Using the carbon source data will allow students to see where emissions of carbon to the atmosphere are greatest. Arguing from the evidence will allow students to begin to differentiate natural sources of atmospheric carbon from carbon sources created by human activity. Using the Flux section of the Carbon Tracker (http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/carbontracker/fluxtimeseries.php), students can analyze the data in greater detail. The Flux data can be analyzed by geographic area and type (land, ocean, fossil, and fire).

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Although the visualization does not explicitly address the concept of matter flowing in/out/within a system, student discussion can be led to the concept of matter flow in regards to the question “where does all the carbon go?” Students can use the visualizations and graphs to see how matter (carbon) flows through the various spheres on Earth. At certain times of the year atmospheric carbon has a high concentration over various parts of the Earth. At later times the concentration of atmospheric carbon has a low concentration over the same parts of the Earth. Student discussion can be led to explain the changes in concentration.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students are involved in three-dimensional learning to make sense of phenomena. Elements of the disciplinary core idea are significantly addressed through use of the software. The NOAA Carbon Tracker provides opportunities to address the practices of developing a model to illustrate the relationship between parts of a system AND analyzing data using tools, technologies, and/or models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims. The crosscutting concepts of energy drives the cycling of matter in systems AND patterns are also explored by using the software. Students then begin building their own model through their three-dimensional learning.

  • Instructional Supports: Software does not provide instructional supports but it does engage students in authentic and meaningful practice of science.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The software does not provide a method for monitoring student progress. The software could be used to monitor student progress by having students use the software while making a presentation that explains how carbon levels change through the course of a year OR why the concentration of carbon varies over a particular part of the Earth. A teacher could use the software, selecting subsets of the carbon dataset, while asking questions that would probe student understanding and encourage discussion.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource is a web based tool that runs in any web browser on a MAC or PC. It allows students to explore a data set of carbon emission and sink sources. A variety of settings can be adjusted to further narrow the components of the data set observed. There is a Help area that provides information on how each part of the resource functions.