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Lamont-Doherty Geoscience Data Puzzles

Earth Science Puzzles Book CoverWe are excited to announce that Data Puzzles are now published as an NSTA Press book, Earth Science Puzzles: Making Meaning From Data. The content on this website describes the attributes and heritage of the Data Puzzles, and supports use of the published puzzles in the classroom. A free sample chapter is available here for download. Visit the NSTA Press Science Store to order the book. Please note there is an error in the book for which a corrected page is provided in this erratum supplement. All known errors are tracked on the erratum page of this site.

Pollen grainsHow do we know what the climate was like in the past?

By David McGee, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The "Aha"Insights: How do scientists figure out what the climate of an area was like 500, 1,000, or 10,000 years ago? In this data puzzle, students use variations in pollen preserved in a sediment core from a pond to reconstruct past climates in the region. By charting the evolution of local climate and vegetation from the end of the last ice age to the present, students are able to visualize past conditions in the region and to understand how the sedimentary record can be used to learn about the past.

Graphs of weather conditions.How do we decide "weather" or not to proceed with the trip?

By Deena Bollinger, South Orangetown Middle School, and Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The "Aha"Insights: How does wind influence weather? How is weather related to air mass? How can we make weather predictions from lines that show up on a graph? These are just some of the questions students will address as they examine graphs of temperature, dewpoint and wind direction for a single weather event to see how to 'read' the weather story. Students will learn that fronts are the doorway to a weather change; as the leading edge of an air mass, fronts can signal adjustments in temperature, wind direction and even precipitation.

Graphs of weather conditions.What does an earthquake feel like?

By Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and John Armbruster, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The "Aha"Insights: Students in the Northeast U.S. are often surprised to learn that earthquakes occur in our region, and that they do not all occur at tectonic plate boundaries. Students will learn what an earthquake feels like, when experienced by the human senses and described in everyday language. The high-tech sensors that scientists use today to record seismic waves detect the same phenomena that the human senses detected in the historical newspaper accounts.

Hudson River estuary map. Is the Hudson River too salty to drink?

By Margie Turrin, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The "Aha" Insights: In this data puzzle, students will examine three different sources of salinity data collected throughout the Hudson River Estuary. By comparing salinity data to a map of the estuary they will see that salinity drops as you move north away from the Atlantic Ocean. By comparing salinity and rainfall data for a four-day period at a single location in the estuary, they will see how a rain event in the watershed forces back the intruding salt from the Atlantic Ocean. By plotting data on the location of the salt front for two two-month periods, they will see that salinity at a given location varies seasonally. In the end, students will understand that the amount of salt in the estuary is controlled by the constant input of freshwater from the northern end of the river system and the salt water intrusion from the Atlantic Ocean.

BRF topo mapWhere did the water go?

By Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The "Aha" Insights: In this Data Puzzle, students compare the amount of water that fell in a watershed over the course of one year with the amount of water that exited from the watershed via the outflow stream. It turns out that nearly half of the water that fell onto the watershed didn't flow out through the stream. So, where did it go? Students can draw on their understanding of the water cycle to hypothesize that some of the water could have escaped upwards into the atmosphere via evapotranspiration, or downwards into the soil via infiltration. Students find it surprising that these "invisible" pathways in the water cycle carry nearly as much water as the conspicuous pathway of the rushing stream.

Hydrothermal vent photo.How much heat is released by a seafloor hydrothermal vent?

By Rosemarie Sanders, Ramapo High School, and Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The "Aha" Insights: In this data puzzle, students compare the amount of heat given off by a hydrothermal vent with the amount of heat needed to bring kettles of water to the temperature at which water begins to boil. Understanding that the heat released from one vent in a day would provide a cup of coffee/tea/cocoa for every man, woman or child in several Northeastern States helps students to realize that large amounts of heat come from the earth's interior.

The development of Geoscience Data Puzzles has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Grant OCE03-28117 (Data Puzzles #2 and #3) and Grant GEO06-08057 (Data Puzzle #1). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

Last updated December 5, 2012