Climate Modeling 101

Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Informative Text
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.


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Climate modeling 101, is a multi-part introduction to climate models. Students click through videos and readings about how climate models work and are shown examples. This resource addresses: Understanding Climate, Understanding Computer Models, Constructing a Climate Model, Validating Climate Models, Users of Climate Modeling, and Developers of Climate Models. Some of the items will require flash player. It will take students approximately 60 minutes to go through all the material.


Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how patterns vary by latitude, altitude, and geographic land distribution. Emphasis of atmospheric circulation is on the sunlight-driven latitudinal banding, the Coriolis effect, and resulting prevailing winds; emphasis of ocean circulation is on the transfer of heat by the global ocean convection cycle, which is constrained by the Coriolis effect and the outlines of continents. Examples of models can be diagrams, maps and globes, or digital representations

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the dynamics of the Coriolis effect.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students are gaining background information on how climate models are created and used by others. To fully include the Performance Expectation, the students will need more information on rotation of the Earth and Oceanic Circulation and more background information on the development of regional climates to better understand global climates. In Module One, Understanding Climate, two additional resources, the NASA and COMET websites, are listed to help fully address developing a model.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students view six modules describing how climate models are created. The first couple of modules describe the relationship between weather and climate. The students do not actually develop a model of climate. In order to meet the Practice, students would need to develop their own model. Suggestions for this would be to use this NGSS@NSTA Hub resource: Using the Very,Very Simple Climate Model in the Classroom . Students can create maps and plots and use climate variables to develop their own model of climate change and look at past and future climates.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This resource primarily provides information about how climate models are developed and their applications. To address the Disciplinary Core Idea more background information about weather and climate and the causes and effects of each will need to be included.

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
This activity shows climate models, how to construct them, who uses them and how to validate them. To meet the expectations of the Cross Cutting Concepts the students will need to spend more time reading Module Six, where the developers of climate models will give the students a wider scope to view. It is very technical reading, I suggest a scavenger hunt through the six models to keep the material from being too overwhelming to middle school students.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: In Climate Modeling 101, students will read the informational text and watch videos on the topic of climate models. The videos and text support students in the understanding of climate model, but do not give them an opportunity to develop or use a model themselves (Science and Engineering Practice). In order to meet the needs of the Disciplinary Core Idea students will need to get more background understanding of Climate vs. Weather and the differences, similarities, and causes of each. The models that were given were examples of systems built from collections of weather data (Crosscutting Concepts). The lesson is appropriate for middle school students with additional background information.

  • Instructional Supports: Climate Modeling 101 uses scientifically accurate information and is grade appropriate. The videos are visually appealing and informative. The phenomena of climate is relevant and is a current news topic. The informational text and videos do not provide students with a direct solution or the ability to develop their own model, they just read and view them. This activity does not allow for student interactions, unless guided by the teacher. It will be up to the teacher to develop an instructional plan, since no specific lesson plan is included. The progressions and background knowledge given are weak and will need outside support and the additions referred to earlier. No extra differentiation for exceptional, English language learners or special needs is addressed in this activity. The modules progress providing a deeper understanding of climate modeling.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The creators do not provide any tools to assess student progress. Teachers will need to supplement background information and create an activity to develop a model to meet the three dimensional aspect. The teacher can also create questions and writing prompts for the students as they move along through the modules to assess their progress and understanding. Formative assessments, rubrics and any scoring guidance are not provided.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The students click through the six modules looking at videos and a text. Many links are provided for viewing and may be distracting to students. The students are mostly in a passive mode viewing and clicking on the links.