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FE Magazine - Issue 15: Focus on...

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 23 September 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 07 October 2010 by ncetm_administrator


FE Magazine - Issue 15iceberg - photograph by ilya used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2 Generic licence

Focus on – the mathematics of climate change

A United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held from 29 November to 10 December 2010 in Cancun, Mexico. We thought that you might find some links to sites which look at the mathematics of climate change useful.

In the spring of 2007, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California, organized a large public event, “Climate Change: From Global Models to Local Action”, to examine some political and economic aspects of climate: what we know, what we guess, how and how much our society can and should respond to what we are learning. The key feature of this event was a public panel discussion. The public panel discussion was followed on the next two days by a scientific symposium, in which mathematicians from many different fields mixed with economists, climate modellers and others who have already been working on the many questions involved. Dana MacKenzie produced a booklet, Mathematics of Climate Change, as a record of some of the discussions and ideas in those meetings.

Maths and climate change: the melting Arctic by Marianne Freiberger was published in PlusMaths in March 2008. The article focuses on the work done by Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group, based in the Department for Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. He is also a former Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge.

The article Will the oceans submerge everything? aims to answer the questions, How much will the seas rise? and When will temperatures stabilise and what will be the geographical pattern?

The site climatechangeeducation.org has a page with many resources for those looking at climate change within mathematics, where you can find several lesson plans from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

  • Let The Chips Fall Where They May
  • Triangle Triage
  • Economics and Emissions
  • Opinion Activity
  • Watt's Up?
  • Personal Emissions Calculator.

There is also a section titled Ready-Made Problems

And a section, Design Your Own Problems, which has really useful links:

The June 2009 edition of PlusMaths had a Teacher package: On thin ice – Maths and climate change in the Arctic. This teacher package was the result of a collaboration between Plus and Arctic Survey Education. The material consists of three toolkits, focussing on some of the science that underlies the Catlin Arctic Survey. Each toolkit is made up of a background article and two worksheets with guidance notes for teachers. The overview article can be read on its own, or used as motivational material for the two worksheets. The worksheets are designed to promote group discussion of the topics, as well as provide hands-on activities.

The navigation toolkit explores the navigational aspects of the expedition, including questions surrounding cartography and GPS systems. You can download the whole toolkit, or download the individual components:

The climate change toolkit looks at models of climate change and sea ice growth. You can download the whole toolkit or download the individual components:

And the statistics toolkit explores statistical aspects of the expedition, including the ‘spin’ that can be put on statistical evidence to make it sound positive or negative, and methods to predict future trends in Arctic climate change. Again, you can download the whole toolkit or individual components:

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