This lesson focuses on El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Equatorial Pacific. Students will learn about the climate phenomenon and regional impacts that occur on different sides of the Pacific. One introductory lab within this lesson invites students to graph real data, so they can make their own observations. A follow-up or supplemental lab has students investigate ENSO through a number of online resources and requires access to computers and an Internet connection.

  • As an introduction, the teacher should present a short (~15mins) PowerPoint, to the students to provide background information about ENSO. Following the lecture, the students should start the introductory lesson called ENSO Lesson 1
  • In the first lesson document, students are asked to plot real sea surface temperature data from NOAA on the attached graph paper. Part I provides students an opportunity to make their own graphs and then will need to make some observations. Part II requires the students to answer questions about their observations.
  • A second lesson, called ENSO Lesson 2, is available where students will conduct an investigation into ENSO phenomenon through online resources. After visiting different websites, students are asked to discuss the impacts in various regions of the United States. Next, they are asked to draw a profile of the equatorial Pacific and asked to illustrate the changes in precipitation, upwelling and currents.
  • The second lesson requires students to have access to computers (preferably 1-2 students per machine) and the access to the Internet.
  • This activity was developed for use in a high school (grades 9-12) Oceanography or Marine science class. It is also appropriate for an introductory level college geoscience class. The goal of this lesson is to introduce students to ENSO and associated impacts. Lesson duration: Approximately 90 minutes.
  • During the lecture, it is a good idea to require students to take notes about ENSO and the impacts of El Nino vs. La Nina. Lesson 1 relatively easy and should be used as a precursor to Lesson 2. Note that Lesson 2 requires a computer and internet access.

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El Nino Impact

Lesson Specifics
  • Grade Level: High School (grades 9-12) Oceanography or Marine science class.
  • Time Frame: 90 minutes.

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