GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 115-11
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


NAGY, Elizabeth, Division of Natural Sciences; Geosciences Department, Pasadena City College, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

Accurate forecasts are important to society when it comes to safety from severe weather hazards such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards, and even less dramatic conditions such as thunderstorms, fog, heat domes, or strong wind events. Although today’s forecasts are greatly aided by models using supercomputers, forecast patterns can be readily understood using several types of atmospheric data. Meteorology is introduced to students in earth science classes at Pasadena City College beginning with variables that control air temperature, cloud formation and humidity, and wind and air pressure. After students understand these basic weather variables they are introduced to air masses, weather fronts, and mid-latitude cyclones. Students also learn how these variables are represented on weather maps. A key learning outcome is for students to be able to look at a weather map and predict how these variables and the associated weather will change as systems move across the North American continent. I have designed a weather map jigsaw activity that is very easy for instructors to create and very effective at getting students to brainstorm together and use cognitive skills such as application and analysis. I use it at the end of the meteorology unit as review. Students are placed in teams of eight, and each one is given a different laminated weather map. In actuality the weather maps are from eight consecutive days that I downloaded from the internet (such as On the back of each map is one of four hand drawn symbols (e.g, star, triangle,...). There are two maps with each symbol, so at the beginning of the exercise the two students with the same symbol (e.g., star) are partners. This makes four pairs of students for each team. Each pair must determine which of their two maps is chronologically first and second (the pairs of maps are always from two adjacent dates). Before returning to their team of eight, pairs of students from all teams with the same symbol meet and share which map they chose as chronologically first. In my classes there are usually three or four teams of eight, so this step involves six to eight students. At this point I make sure that all pairs have the correct order of their maps. Finally, students return to their original team of eight, and now are charged with putting all eight maps in chronological order. The activity stimulates a whole-class discussion on data interpretation.