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PBL Scenario

Image of Polar Mesospheric Clouds.
Electric blue Polar Mesospheric Clouds viewed from the International Space Station (1)

You live in a town in Alaska. Your local government is considering implementing mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions to lessen the town's impact on climate. But there are some vocal opponents who insist that it is premature to implement any restrictions because climate change isn't really happening.

Two of the town council members say that you can tell if the climate is changing just by observing the clouds overhead. They say that the clouds will change if the climate changes. So if you see changes in the clouds, you'll have evidence that the climate really is changing. If you do not see changes in the clouds, you'll have evidence that the climate is not changing.

You are on a science committee that is tasked with either defending or debunking this suggestion. If you defend it, you should recommend the kinds of changes to look for, in what kinds of clouds, over what time period, and why. If you debunk the suggestion you should describe why it is incorrect and recommend a better way to figure out if there is evidence that climate is changing.

(1) Photo credit: Don Pettit and NASA TV.

PBL Navigation

> PBL Scenario
> Layers of the Atmosphere
> What is a Cloud?
> Weather and Climate
> How Clouds Form, Saturation and Nucleation
> Clouds in the Lower Atmosphere
> Clouds in the Upper Atmosphere
> How Does Climate Affect the Atmosphere?
> Glossary

Teacher's Guide

I. AIM Mission Objectives
II. Key Questions for Students
III. Problem-Solving Model
IV. Materials and Procedures


A: Sample Student Activity Sheet
B: Assessment Rubric
C: National Science Education Standards

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NASA's Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum.

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