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Essay #1: Temperature Trends in Your Hometown

Learning Objectives


In this essay assignment, you will download temperature data from any town you would like to know more about. This could be a town you or a family member have lived in, a place you have visited, or a town you would like to live in. The temperature data you download will be from satellite and ground station sources. You will graph that data as well as running averages of that data.


Once you have graphical representations of the temperature data from your town, write an essay that answers the following prompts:


Bloom, Arnold J (2010) Global Climate Change, Convergence of Disciplines, Sinauer Associates, Inc, Sunderland, Massachusetts.

Goddard Institute for Space Studies (2009) Global Temperature Trends: 2008 Annual Summation. http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2008/ accessed September 22, 2012.

National Research Council (2006) Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years , The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11676 accessed September 22, 2012.

NASA’s Surface meteorology and Solar Energy data http://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov/sse/ accessed September 22, 2012.

NASA’s Ground station temperature data http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/ accessed September 22, 2012.

NOAA’s Ground station data http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/#t=secondTabLink accessed January 12, 2013.


Weather measurements are made at observing stations or by weather satellites.

Obtaining the Data

Satellite Data

Visit the website for NASA’s Surface meteorology and Solar Energy data (select link above or paste this URL into your browser: http://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov/sse/).

1. Click on “Meteorology and Solar Energy”
2. Click on “Interannual Variability”
3. Enter the longitude and latitude of your chosen location, which you can find at http://www.latlong.net/.
4. The start year should be 1983 and the end year should be 2005.
5. For “select one parameter,” select “minimum air temperature at 10 m.”
6. Hit “submit.” 7. Select the data in the chart, copy it, and paste it into the Excel spreadsheet on the tab labeled Your town min temp, in cell A1 .
8. Hit the “back arrow” on your web browser to get back to the page where you were asked to enter the longitude and latitude of your town (these should still appear on this page).
9. Change the “select one parameter” to “maximum air temperature at 10m.”
10. Select the data in the chart, copy it, and paste it into the Excel spreadsheet on the tab labeled Your town max temp, in cell A1.

Ground Station Data (NASA)

Click on the following link: Ground station temperature data (or paste this url into your browser: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/). If this website is not functioning, please follow the directions for Ground Station Data (NOAA) found below.

1. From this site you can find data from the weather station closest to the town you’ve chosen to look at.
2. In the Download Station Data box, enter a station name to search for and hit search.
3. Select “download monthly data as text.”
4. Now getting the data into your spreadsheet will take a couple of steps: You will need to eliminate any erroneous data. This appears as the number 999.9 in the spreadsheet. Under the “Home” tab, click on the binoculars (find & select) button and select “Replace” (or type Ctrl and “F”: hold control while you hit “F”). Hit the “Replace” tab. For Find, enter 999.9 and for Replace, keep it blank. Hit “Replace All” (this command should replace all of your 999.9 entries with blanks).

Ground Station Data (NOAA)

1. If the NASA website is not working, go to the NOAA National Climatic Data Center (Climate Data Online: Text & Map Search) Website at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/#t=secondTabLink.

2. Enter the zip code or the name of your hometown in the (1) box that says "Enter search term(s) for station name, location name, ZIP code, etc."

3. Select from the drop down list (2) for "Select a data set or product to search" the product "Monthly Summaries GHCND".

4. Click the (3) SEARCH button.

5. If several weather stations are listed on the next webpage that appears, choose the one that is most appropriate: the one that is closest to the location you want and has the longest period of record (at least several decades). You can details from clicking "Full Details" or "Quick Details".

6. Once you have decided on a weather station, click on "Add to cart" button. (Do not worry; despite the name, you are not purchasing anything.)

7. Then click on the “Cart (Free Data) 1 item” button toward the upper right of the webpage.

8. On the "View/Edit Your Chart" page that opens go to the column on the right side that say "Additional options".

9. In the left box under the Label "Output date range" click the calendar icon on the right side of the box (a red grid with a green pin) and choose the earliest date. You will have to scroll up the drop down list for year to pick the earliest year. Click on the day of the month. Alternatively you can type in the date in the format yyyy-mm-dd (y=year, m=month, and d=day).

10. In the right box under the Label "Output date range" click the calendar icon on the right side of the box (a red grid with a green pin) and choose the most recent date. The default selection is probably fine. Click on the day of the month. Alternatively you can type in the date in the format yyyy-mm-dd (y=year, m=month, and d=day).

11. In the boxes under the Label "Select the output format", pick the second one "Custom Monthly Summaries of GHCN-Daily CSV" and click the small round button. It should now have a black dot in it.

12. Click the orange "Continue" button at the bottom of this Additional options box.

13. On the next page "Custom Output - Monthly Summaries GHCND" in the box on the left "Select data types for custom output" click the box beside "Air Temperature". It should contain a green check. Click the orange box "Continue to Review" on the bottom of the page.

14. On the next page "Review Order" in the right column box under "Enter email address", enter your email address and verify it. Click on the orange "Submit Order" box below.

15. You will almost immediately receive a notification of the order in an email from NCDC CDO noreply@noaa.gov and then several minutes later receive a hyperlink with the source of the data in another email from the same source.

16. Click on the hyperlink, and you should be given the option of opening the file with your spreadsheet or saving it as a file on your computer. It is probably easier to just open it with your spreadsheet. The file will have in the first column the station number, the second column the date in the format yyyy-mm-dd (y=year, m=month, and d=day). The next five columns EMNT - EMXT - MMNT - MMXT – MNTM stand for, respectively, Extreme Minimum Temperature for the Month, Extreme maximum temperature for the month, Monthly mean minimum temperature, Monthly mean maximum temperature, and Monthly mean temperature.

17. You have to divide the listed numbers by 10 to get the temperatures in degrees Celsius. The spreadsheet can do this for you: in the Cell of the spreadsheet H2, type =c2/10 and enter. This cell should show the Extreme minimum temperature for the month in Celsius. Copy the formula in cell H2 and paste it into cells I2, J2, K2, and L2. Then paste the formula into as many rows as you have monthly data.

18. Copy and paste these data into the appropriate cells of spreadsheet template that we provided. You will probably have to use Paste Special Values. Also using Paste Special Values Transpose will save you time because you can do a whole year (12 months) at once.

Graphing the Data

Satellite data:

A. February min average temperature

1. Highlight the year column.
2. Hold down the control (CTRL) button and highlight the February column
3. Click the “Insert” tab and hit the Scatter button, select scatter with straight lines and markers. Copy and paste the graph onto a new sheet
4. Label the Chart (the steps for labeling the chart and axes can vary by computer, please refer to Excel Help if you need directions).
5. Label the Y-axis (temperature in degrees C).
6. Label the X-axis.
7. Adjust the Y-axis so both of the February charts are on the same scale (do this for all pairs of graphs). To do this:

B. February min 5 year running average temperature

C. July max average temperature

D. July max 5 year running average temperature

Ground data:

A. February average temperature

B. February 11 year running average temperature

C. July average temperature

D. July 11 year running average temperature