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Temporal & Spatial Scales of Climate Change

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  • 0:00 A Budding Climatologist
  • 0:30 Spatial Scales
  • 1:26 Temporal Scales
  • 2:20 Examples
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

So, you want to be a climatologist? When designing your studies, you need to know the difference between spatial and temporal scales of climate change. Read on to discover more about this and then create a project of your very own!

A Budding Climatologist

I can tell by those sunglasses, rain boots, weather vane and barometer that you are a budding climatologist. Well, lucky for you, I am here to help. So, without wasting any time, let's get started on your first project. When you are studying climate, the very first decisions you need to make are what will be your spatial and temporal scales. In other words, where are you going to focus your study and during what time period?

Spatial Scales

When you are deciding on the spatial scale of a study, you are focusing on a geographic region of climate change. In other words, where are you going to concentrate your study? How large or small will your focus be? Will you be studying the entire planet? Climatologists do this when they use computer models to predict global temperatures into the future.

How about using political boundaries, like a country? Maybe you are interested in the effect of carbon emissions in China. This would be focusing on a single country. Or what about a state? Do you want to research whether or not climate change caused the California drought? This would be focusing on a single state.

Obviously, though, ecosystems and climates don't follow political boundaries. Maybe you want to study the Sahara Desert, which crosses 12 countries. Or maybe, since this is your first study, you just want to focus on the creek ecosystem near your home.

Temporal Scales

So, now that you have decided on a location, you need to think about the temporal scale, or the time period of climate change. This would be the 'when' of your study. How far into the past or the future do you want to look? Do you just want to look at the climate right now? In that case, you are studying the present.

Are you going to look into the future? Again, climatologists use computer programs to model future climates. But here is something to think about: how far into the future do you think you can reasonably predict? Tomorrow? That's easy. One hundred years? That's a little harder.

You can also look into the past. Again, the further back you go, the less accurate your information will be. A search on the Internet will get you reliable weather data for the last 100 years. If you want to know what the climate around your creek looked like when dinosaurs walked there, you must rely on observations from the fossil record.

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