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Classroom Discussion Activity

NAO: Driving Climate Across the Atlantic

For centuries, a massive atmospheric system has regularly altered weather patterns, fishery production and animal migrations across the North Atlantic Ocean. At last, Earth scientists and climate modelers are beginning to understand how—and when—the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) happens.

Class Discussion

Establish Prior Knowledge
Ask students to explain the difference between weather and climate. Explain that this feature is about the NAO, a complex climate system, that influences local weather in various regions.

Exploration
Have students watch the video and read the synopsis. Ask them to take notes while they are watching the video. Use the following questions to guide discussion.
• What is a positive NAO phase? What are some examples of weather conditions caused by a positive phase?
• What is a negative NAO phase? What are some examples of weather conditions caused by a negative phase?
• Studying the NAO requires enormous amounts of data on numerous weather and climate phenomena. What are some of the challenges in collecting this data?
• What instruments do scientists use to collect data?
• Why is having data from so many NAO’s of the past so important?
• How far back can scientists go to gather data on the NAO? Can they determine what the NAO pattern was like a million years ago?

Wrap-up
Use these questions to wrap up your discussion.
• What has caused renewed interest in the NAO?
• What are the challenges involved in predicting a NAO trend?

Extend
Students who want to learn more can visit these related links from NASA:

Searching For Atlantic Rhythms: Winter Weather and the North Atlantic Oscillation
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/NAO/
This detailed article contains lots of interesting facts and visuals about the North Atlantic Oscillation.

AIRS: NASA’s New Satellite Takes On Global Climate Change
http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/features/climate_change/intro.html
Read about how the atmospheric infrared sounder satellite, AIRS, can be used to detect large-scale global climate 
change.

Athena Curriculum: Weather
http://vathena.arc.nasa.gov/curric/weather/hsweathr/
Is weather prediction an exact science? Find out the answer to this question and many more by exploring this 
fascinating site, which also has links to activities.

JPL:Weather
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/earth/weather_climate/weather_climate_index.cfm
Learn how trying to predict the weather helps scientists deepen their understanding of Earth’s dynamic nature.

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