Tutorials - Emigrant Pass Observatory

University of Utah Block U

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Lesson Ideas

We recommend that lessons begin with a pre-test and discussion. This process examines a student's prior knowledge and understanding, and is an excellent springboard for determining the direction to proceed. We believe in "minds on" (Martin and Howell, 2001), inquiry based learning. Hence, we feel that students should explore the physical question as opposed to searching for an answer. Using this dataset introduces students to real scientific data, and can facilitate such learning.

1. Daily variations in temperature. Begin with a pre-test asking student's how temperature varies throughout the day. Most students should be able to roughly identify the rise and fall of temperature that occurs over the course of a day. After discussing the student responses, a consideration and discussion of measured EPO air temperature is warranted. For example, the air temperature plotted in the figure below illustrates the warming of the air through the day, followed by cooling into the evening and night. However, the warming and cooling of the air temperature does not smoothly increase and decrease, but instead shows higher frequency fluctuations throughout the day. Inspection of other parameters such as solar radiation, wind, and precipitation could then elucidate what may be happening to cause the uneven rise and fall of air temperature. Is there a storm passing? Is it cloud cover? What does the data show?

2. Variation in ground temperature through time. The pre-test procedure asks students to sketch how ground temperatures would change with respect to air temperature might lead to a discussion on how hot the ground gets (e.g., a comparison of asphalt versus grass) and why this occurs (albedo effects). After this discussion, an examination of the ground temperatures from EPO would yield “minds on” questions such as why does the ground temperature change lag the air temperature change and why the ground temperatures have smooth variations with time (diffusion). Further inquiry of the ground temperature data during and after the winter snow will also lead to excellent discussion and opportunities for inquiry-based learning.

Air and ground temperatures at EPO over the course of one week in October of 2009. The phase lag and attenuation of the air temperature is clearly seen in the subsurface temperatures.