2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 183-12
Presentation Time: 10:55 AM


TURRIN, Margaret J., Education Coordinator, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, 61 Rt. 9W, Palisades, NY 10964 and PORTER, David, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10956, mkt@ldeo.columbia.edu

Climate has the attention of the public but its complexity can cause interested individuals be confused by opinion pieces, news articles or blogs. Non-science platforms often oversimplify or present heavily interpreted perspectives. Developing ‘Climate Literacy’ in the public will involve engaging them with a science-based introduction to a wide range of geoscience disciplines. This introduction must be more than a cursory overview, it must include viewing some data in order to see inter-relationships and changes through time. How do we engage the public with climate science and data while making it interactive and engaging?

We developed ‘Polar Explorer: Sea Level Explorer App’, an interactive app around sea level rise. Using maps of geoscience data from the oceans, the atmosphere, changing world ice, and the role of humans the app is couched in a question driven structure to explore evidence of a changing climate. Users can travel through the app, exploring just the areas that capture their interest as they are introduced to the interactions and relationships through the data and supporting materials. Through science data displayed as map visualizations the user is invited into topics through an introductory question, such as “Why does sea level change?” allowing the user to exploring the role of the ocean, the atmosphere, the contribution from the world’s glaciers, world’s ice sheets and other less obvious considerations such as the role of post-glacial rebound, or the mining of groundwater. ‘Internal Ocean Temperature’ offers the user a chance to bring up temperature values spatially over the world’s ocean, or to click through a temperature data from the ocean surface down to 5000 meters below sea level.

We chose to include a broad-based introduction to geoscience topics as a way of presenting the complexity of the climate system, while at the same time scaffolding with enough support materials to facilitate users. Each map is supported with a pop up and a short audio file of supporting material, and an information page that includes the data source and links for further reading. The full app forms a small ‘textbook’ of systems interactions around climate; explored in parts it offers an introduction to pieces of the climate system and a taste of some of the main questions that have captured the attention of the science community.

  • Polar Explorer_sm.pdf (2.2 MB)