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Using Data from Climate Science to Teach Introductory Statistics

Dr. Gary Witt
Lead Investigators: 
Dr. Gary Witt
School & Deparment: 
  • Business & Management, Fox School of
  • Statistics
Start Date: 
Other Researchers: 
Funding Source: 
Temple University

Abstract: This paper shows how the application of simple statistical methods can reveal to students important insights from climate data. While the popular press is filled with contradictory opinions about climate science, teachers can encourage students to use introductory-level statistics to analyze data for themselves on this important issue in public policy. Two detailed examples demonstrate how climate data can be a useful tool in teaching introductory statistics. The first example addresses the very important topic of the rate of decline of Arctic sea ice. Many climate scientists believe that Arctic sea ice melt is accelerating. The simple data analyses of this paper are meant to encourage students to examine the evidence themselves. The second example compares two possible explanations for the rise in global temperature over the last three decades: changes in the intensity of sunlight or changes in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In addition to the specific data sources for these examples, the paper lists reliable on-line catalogues of climate science databases for constructing other examples.

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