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Become a nitrogen atom in the nitrogen cycle in our Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit/Game. See all our games, activity kits and classroom activities.
Climate system models produce visualizations such as this one, and provide scientists, policy makers, and educators with ways to manipulate, understand, and predict what variables control the atmosphere, climate, and Earth System.
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Copyright University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, NCAR Climate System Model.

Atmospheric Science Literacy - Essential Principle 6

We seek to understand past, present, and future behavior of Earth's atmosphere through scientific observation and reasoning.

Fundamental Concept 6.1
Our understanding of Earth's atmosphere comes from analysis, interpretation, and synthesis of accurate and purposeful observations of the atmosphere, ocean, biosphere, land surface, and Polar Regions.

Fundamental Concept 6.2
Data about Earth's atmosphere are gathered by direct (in situ) measurement of temperature, precipitation, wind, pressure, and other variables, as well as by indirect (remote sensing) measurements taken at a distance using ground-based, satellite, and airborne measurements.

Fundamental Concept 6.3
Our understanding of Earth's atmosphere allows scientists to develop numerical (computer) models that can be used to simulate Earth's weather and climate. Such models are fundamental to modern weather analysis and forecasting and are essential to scientists' efforts to understand Earth's past climate and predict future climate.

Fundamental Concept 6.4
To generate predictions, numerical models must begin with observations of Earth's atmosphere and the planet's land and ocean surfaces. These data are used to provide starting conditions for models that are as complete as possible.

Fundamental Concept 6.5
Inaccuracies and the imprecision inherent in instruments, mathematical representations of physical processes, model resolution, and discrete numerical calculations limit the accuracy of the resulting simulations and predictions. Models improve with technological and theoretical advances, which improve data quality and quantity and our ability to represent physical processes. The chaotic nature and inherent complexity of some natural processes ultimately limits how far in advance atmospheric phenomena can be predicted, forcing the use of statistical projections.

Last modified July 29, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA