Climate Lesson Update – January 2014

Welcome to 2014! … we hope you didn’t forget your long-underwear back in 2013. Did you know that the unique conditions that brought Minnesota temperatures below -50 degrees Fahrenheit this January and a few days of cancelled school (and now work, for some!) are linked to climate change?

Despite the rise of average global temperature, changing the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels increases the likelihood of severe cold-weather events too (I guess that’s why we favor the term “climate change” over “global warming” these days). People are calling the extreme event we experienced in January a “polar vortex” and here’s how it relates to climate change:

  • Increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing the jet stream to slow down (source).
  • A slower jet stream is “wavier”, bringing weather patterns in from the far north and deep south more often (source).

Check out this quick video showing the jet stream. It shows moments when it becomes more “wavy”, bringing air from the north (cold) or south (warm). Fascinating!

Although we’ve been experiencing the cold, 2013 still tied as the 4th warmest on record since 1880 (source) and the Western United Staes may be in the middle of a megadrought (source).

Chaotic aspects of climate are sure to bring out the “snow trolls”: those who are convinced that climate change is not happening due to single cold events or short-term trends. Arm yourself against inevitable conversations with snow trolls using these tips, (from Climate Access):

  1. Use “climate disruption” instead of “global warming” to make it more difficult to dismiss during periods of cold weather and winter storms by conveying that there is a fundamental destabilization of the earth’s climate system.
  2. Emphasize that climate change is causing extremes in temperature around the world and point to concrete examples. While the U.S. is experiencing a deep freeze, Australians are in the grips of a severe heat wave.
  3. Note that “while it might be cold today, winter is getting milder and spring is arriving, on average, 10 days sooner.” This shift is expanding wildfire season, increasing insect populations, and harming chill-dependent crops such as blueberries, apples and maple syrup.

Happening now: Join the 2014 Climate & Energy Webinar Series

We had a fun and fascinating start to our webinar series with Will Steger’s “Eyewitness to Climate Change” presentation. Watch the archived recording of Will’s presentation online and learn more about all of our upcoming, free webinars this winter and spring on the webinar series webpage.


Next webinar event: learn about “Engaging High School Youth in Climate Policy” with students from the School for Environmental Studies, in Apple Valley, MN and their teacher Craig Johnson. The event will take place February 12th, 6:30-7:30 PM Central Daylight Time. Learn more and register now.

Thinking ahead about summer professional development opportunities?

You and your colleagues are invited to the 2014 Summer Institute for Climate and Energy Education – the Midwest’s climate change education event of the year!

Join us at the Institute to:

  • Connect to Minnesota and regional educators who care about quality teaching and social/environmental issues.
  • Revitalize by the quiet woods and placid Grindstone Lake (yes, there will be time for paddling).
  • Prime for a remarkable school year by inspiring keynotes and guest scientists.
  • Get pumped up through trainings in award-winning curriculum: Minnesota’s Changing Climate OR Experience Energy.

When: August 4-6, 2014
Where: Audubon Center of the North Woods, Sandstone, MN
Cost: $125

Learn more about the Institute and register online.

Students and teachers: Join us for Lobby Day!

This year, our Youth Lobby Day will be on Monday, March 31st.  The morning will include some training on the issues and preparation for the meetings, lunch will be included; then students will have an opportunity to meet with their legislators and take a public action.  We will be lobbying on increasing the Renewable Energy Standard in Minnesota to 40% as well as focusing on building relationships with key legislators.  New this year will be Lobby Day Institutes.  In mid-March, our emerging leaders program, YEA!MN will host a series of Lobby Day Institutes to ensure that students at Lobby Day are confident and prepared.

Students are welcome to come to Youth Lobby Day on their own, with small groups from their school, or as an entire classroom on a field trip.  If an entire class is planning to attend we can arrange a time to host a Lobby Day Institute during class time at your school.  We are also working to obtain limited transportation funding for school groups or classes in need of transportation support.
If you or someone you know is interested in attending a Lobby Day Institute or the Lobby Day event on March 31st, please contact our Youth Organizer Natalie Cook: or by phone: 651-295-3483

This is a great opportunity to put what we teach into action and work together towards climate change solutions. We hope to see you there!


Adventures, Opportunities and More:

  • Free webinar from the USA National Phenology Network (part of the Nature’s Notebook webinar series). The next one is called “How tracking phenology can benefit your everyday life.” Learn how phenology, the study of life cycle events in plants and animals, can benefit you in many ways – from helping you learn about the natural world to honing your observation skills. When: February 11th, 1:00 PM Central Daylight Time. Register for this webinar.
  • Check out the National Review 2013 from NOAA to get current info on the weather we experienced in 2013, and how it compares to the average and records: Check out the review online.
  • Check out the climate and earth science resources featured on Windows to The Universe.

Moment of Inspiration:

Watch as 12-year old Severn Suzuki delivers the closing addres at the UN Earth Summit 1992 and receives a standing ovation. This event is famous for being a turning point in the movement for sustainable development.


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