• Read our 2019-20 introductory post, which includes the archives of past releases by topic and graph type.

  • Learn more about the “Notice and Wonder” teaching strategy and how and why other teachers are using this feature from our on-demand webinar.

  • Sign up for our free weekly newsletter so you never miss a graph, and add our 2019-20 “What’s Going On in This Graph?” live-moderated discussion Wednesdays to your Google calendar (4/29 and 5/6). Graphs are always released by the Friday before to give teachers time to plan ahead.

  • Go to the A.S.A. K-12 website, which includes This is Statistics, resources, professional development, student competitions, curriculum, courses and careers.


Updated: April 30, 2020

Last year, we had a graph on 2018 global average surface temperature change from The New York Times article “2018 Continues Warming Trend, As 4th Hottest Since 1880.” With one more year of data from 2019, the January 16, 2020 New York Times article that included this week’s graph and map had another shocking title “2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade” The conclusion is based on separate reports produced by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The data was gathered at sea from ships and buoys and on land from tens of thousands of observing statisticians coordinated by government meteorological agencies. It was checked for errors and changes in locations of collecting stations.

How hot was 2019? It was the second warmest year since data has been collected, just shy of the 2016 record by 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit (0.04 degrees Celsius). Decade-long average data, as in the headline, smooths out natural influences such as a volcanic eruption or El Nino/Nina, which affect climate. The data help us understand what we see happening around the world — events like the Australian wildfires, the melting sea ice of the Arctic and Antarctic, the Caribbean hurricanes, and the Day Zero water shortages in Cape Town, South Africa.

Here are some of the student headlines that really capture the meaning of this graph and map: “Temperatures Go Up Up Up With No Way Down” by Akye of Hoggard High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, “In Flux Because Of Us: How We Control Our Planet’s Climate” by Ms. Keohane’s 8th Grade in Lafayette, California, “Planet Overheating” by Lily of Seoul, South Korea, and “The Proof of Global Warming- Are We the Cause?” by Gabrielle of Ohio.

Another headline, to paraphrase Dr. Renee Salas, a Boston emergency room physician who studies climate change’s effect on health, could be “The Planet Has a Fever.”

You may want to think critically about these questions:

  • When did global temperatures start rising? If you say “in about 1980”, take another look. Re-read the heading and the line below the graph. When did temperatures first start rising? What was happening at that time that may have caused the global average temperature to rise?

  • This week’s graph is a time series for 1880 – 2019 with bars. The baseline average temperature is from 1951 – 1980. Last year, The New York Times published a 1880 – 2018 time series graph with points. The baseline was 1880 – 1899. The data for the two graphs is the same except that this week’s graph includes 2019. But, there are other differences between the two graphs.

  • If this week’s graph used the 1880 – 1899 baseline, how would the graph change? Why do you think the designers used the 1951 – 1980 baseline?

  • Scientists have determined that climate has become more extreme and more variable. Which graph best shows that temperature has become more extreme? Which graph best shows that temperature has become more variable? Explain your answers.

  • Comparable to the map in this release, the original article also includes an array of 140 heat maps for the years 1880 – 2019. What do you notice about the movement of temperature change across the world over the 140 years? Which regions experienced warming temperatures first? How has this affected these regions?

  • The 2010s global average surface temperatures was 14.7 degrees Celsius. To calculate the degrees Fahrenheit, use the conversion formula degrees F = (1.8 x degrees C) + 32 degrees C.

Now, the 2010s global average surface temperatures was 1 degree Celsius greater than the average for 1951 – 1980. Use a formula to calculate how many degrees Fahrenheit this is. Check your work by comparing the above Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures. If they don’t agree, review your thinking on the use of your formula.

  • In the article “Why a Half a Degree of Global Warming is a Big Deal,” The New York Times reported that, according to a United Nations report, the earth has warmed by 1°C since the 19th century. In this article, read about how global temperature increases of 1.5°C or of 2.0°C above the 19th century average could affect, for example, the Arctic, extreme heat, water scarcity and sea level rise, and plants and animals. Write about what you notice and wonder from your personal perspective about warming.

  • Learn more about global climate change on the NASA website, where you can find additional graphs and other information on evidence, causes, effects, scientific consensus and vital signs.

Below in the Stat Nuggets, we define and explain mathematical terms that apply to the graph.



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