Ramping up for teaching with NOAA NCDC

Summer is a time of dedicated research for me. Finished one project, waiting for peer reviews on that manuscript, tinkering with twitter, planning out research conference travel in the next school year, and working on a grant proposal to NSF. The season of the classroom is nearly here though, so I’m slowly re-allocating my hours to teaching. A great early-career workshop for university and college faculty that I attended the last week of July helped me get into gear with teaching again. I need a workshop like that every summer!

Another way I start to think about teaching is to begin to browse through the data that I want to bring into the classroom. One site I haven’t visited in months, but that I prolifically visit throughout past school years, is the NOAA NCDC time series plotter. I had the pleasure of visiting the numbers again tonight and remain very impressed by NCDC outreach and transparency efforts. The new addition to the time-series plotter (which you can use to produce climate-relevant analysis at different spatial and temporal scales) is a slightly more friendly user-interface, and a few features that I think most stats people will really appreciate. Yes, it’s not a super fancy analysis package, but the statistical analysis you can do just via the webpage now includes two new options. One is the option to display the anomaly against a different base period rather than always using the 20th Century average. In other words, you can choose a base period of 1951-1980 like NASA GISS tends to use or you can play around and see what the effect of a different base period is. The other new option is a display of a trend line for any period. The first thing you can do with this is see how temperature (for example) trends in the early part of the century compare to the trends in the latter part of the century. Or you can mimic the cherry picking that climate data is sometimes a victim to and choose very specific start and end points to produce a trend that amplifies an argument you are making (“look, it’s getting colder!” or “look, it heating up super fast”). one exception to all this great online analysis is that it only applies at the “super” level for data in the contiguous USA. someday, i’ll ask NCDC scientists why this can’t be done for Alaska and Hawaii, and why the global analysis tools are more limited. either way, an exciting development in my virtual friendship with NOAA NCDC.

About Brian Magi

Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences
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