TEACHING RESOURCES: "Build Your Earth" Tool Fosters Climate Exploration, Engagement
JONATHAN FAIRMAN (email@example.com ) is a research associate in the Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth and Environment, DAVID SCHULTZ (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professor of synoptic meteorology in the Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth and Environment, STUART ANDERSON is an assistant eLearning manager in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at The University of Manchester, and SHARON GARDNER is a learning technologist in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, all at the University of Manchester, Manchester, England.
Imagine if your students were able to design their own planet by choosing parameters such as distance from the sun, tilt of the axis of rotation, and greenhouse gas concentrations, and then set up their own topography and bathymetry. In an ideal world, they would be able to do this on a website by entering this data and then clicking a button to run a climate model in the background. Later, they could return to see images of this dynamic, individualized planet. The results would encourage them to explore their own ideas and engage the general public in learning about the processes that drive Earth's climate. Sounds fun, right?
Instead, we scaled back this vision by preselecting different versions of Earth, performed the simulations offline ourselves, and created a full suite of visualizations, which are readily available for classroom use at the click of a mouse. The result is Build Your Own Earth (http://www.buildyourownearth.com). Build Your Own Earth provides 50 different simulations of Earth or Earth-like planets. Experiments include those that vary the greenhouse gas concentration, solar constant, and orbital parameters. Other experiments include idealized alien planets and ancient versions of Earth from the geologic past. Build Your Own Earth uses the Fast Ocean–Atmosphere Model (Jacob et al. 2001) for its operation, and all simulations are run for 50–300 years until they reach an approximately stable climate. The website provides students with an opportunity to compare different types of experiments that they might imagine creating on their own.
https://www. coursera.org/ourearth), as well as at the University of Manchester's on-campus course EART10111: Planet Earth, a required course for all first-year geoscience majors. Each year, the simulations in Build Your Own Earth have inspired one or two undergraduate students to develop theses projects based on climate modeling. The simulations have also contributed to a paleoclimate research collaboration investigating Jurassic climate, 170 million years ago (Gugliotta et al. 2016).
We invite further collaborations with this tool, as well as any feedback, as we make plans to expand and grow the portal in the future. The tool is freely available for all to use and incorporate in classroom teaching. We would welcome hearing examples of how you use it!
Jacob, R., Schafer, C., Foster, I., Tobis, M. and Anderson, J., 2001, Computational design and performance of the Fast Ocean Atmosphere Model, Version One, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, v. 2073, p. 175–184.
Gugliotta, M., Fairman, Jr., J. G., Schultz, D. M., and Flint, S. S., 2016, Sedimentological and paleoclimate modeling evidence for preservation of Jurassic annual cycles in sedimentation, western Gondwana, Earth Interactions, v. 20 (19), p. 1–21, doi:10.1175/EI- D-15-0046.1.