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Narrative: Extreme Weather
Background
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Narrative: Extreme Weather
Background
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Teaching goals of this narrative

The Extreme Weather narrative has the following main learning objectives: 

  • We have a shared responsibility to engage to protect people, places, and habitats.
  • Society’s reliance on fossil fuels is changing the climate, primarily by adding CO2 to the atmosphere, where it acts like a blanket that traps in heat around the world.
  • This “blanket effect” has a range of undesirable consequences; one is that warming results in changes in sea surface temperature and ocean heat content, which plays a role in more severe extreme weather events. This, in turn, has negative consequences for people and places.
  • Hurricanes draw their energy from the ocean. Warmer water contains more energy. More energy in the ocean contributes to stronger, potentially more destructive hurricanes.
  • The key to addressing climate change is to shift to forms of energy that do not emit carbon dioxide or other heat-trapping gases.
  • Initiatives, programs, and policy-level solutions are changing the way our communities use energy—shifting our energy use in more responsible directions.

Communications challenges to consider

We know from social science that our visitors bring prior knowledge and perceptions that need to be considered in crafting the learning experience. Specifically, be aware that these widely shared patterns of thinking are likely to shape the way your visitors think about this topic. Visitors likely:

  • Sense that environmental problems are big, scary, and depressing … and there’s nothing we can do.
  • Lack an understanding of the basic mechanism of climate change (emissions of heat-trapping gases are disrupting nature’s balance).
  • Lack an understanding that the planet’s climate functions as an integrated system. You can expect that most people can state that climate and weather are two different things—but you can also bet that they don’t grasp the connections between the two.
  • Lack an understanding that the ocean affects weather patterns around the globe, and a related lack of knowledge that climate change has effects on the ocean.
  • Believe that “my observation is as good as yours” —that is, personal observations and experiences with weather “trumping” climate science.
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