Mapping Greenhouse Gas Emitters

February 10, 2013

You can now find the major greenhouse gas emitters (as well as other large facilities that emit pollutants) on the EPA’s mappable website.

The Greenhouse Gas Emitter Database from the EPA is now available as a searchable map.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2013. Mapping Greenhouse Gas Emitters, Retrieved April 20th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Influence Explorer: Data on Campaign Contributions by Politician and by Major Contributors

January 27, 2013

Influence Explorer is an excellent resource for assessing data about money in politics.

The website Influence Explorer has a lot of easily accessible data about the contributions of companies and prominent people to lawmakers. As a resource for civics research it’s really nice, but the time series data also makes it a useful resource for math; algebra and pre-calculus, in particular.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2013. Influence Explorer: Data on Campaign Contributions by Politician and by Major Contributors, Retrieved April 20th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Snow and Ice Data

August 29, 2012

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has some interesting data-sets available, including a number of measures of the extent of Arctic sea-ice showing how fast it has been melting.

Current extent of Arctic Ice. Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The Easy-to-use Data Products page has a lot of real data that middle and high school students can use for projects.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2012. Snow and Ice Data, Retrieved April 20th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

2010 – Most Extreme Weather Since the Year Without a Summer

June 26, 2011

Paths of hurricanes in 2010. The North Atlantic hurricane season was the 3rd most active on record. Visualization from NOAA's excellent Historical Hurricane Tracks interactive map.

Forest fires in the Amazon. Image from NASA.

Jeff Masters has an impressively detailed post laying out the argument that 2010, with its record setting snowstorms, droughts, heatwaves, flooding, hurricanes, etc, had the most extreme weather since 1816, the year without a summer.

Looking back through the 1800s, which was a very cool period, I can’t find any years that had more exceptional global extremes in weather than 2010, until I reach 1816. That was the year of the devastating “Year Without a Summer”–caused by the massive climate-altering 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora, the largest volcanic eruption since at least 536 A.D. It is quite possible that 2010 was the most extreme weather year globally since 1816.

— Masters (2010): 2010 – 2011: Earth’s most extreme weather since 1816? on Weather Underground.

Hurricane Earl approaching the Carolinas. Image by Zach Frailey.


NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks map is an excellent interactive webpage, and data source.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2011. 2010 - Most Extreme Weather Since the Year Without a Summer, Retrieved April 20th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

What’s Needed for a Nation’s Peace

June 23, 2011

The Fund for Peace has been doing a lot of thinking about what it takes for a country to be considered peaceful, and what it takes for a state to fail. For the last seven years they’ve been putting together maps of the world with an index of how stable different countries are.

Finland - the most sustainable state, at least according to the Failed State Index.

While it’s pretty in-depth and makes for rather sobering reading, it’s worth taking a look at the criteria they’ve come up with to determine a country’s stability. It may be useful to include some of this information in the cycle where we focus on peace.

Their criteria for instability include:

  • Demographic pressure (such as having too many young adults, as we’ve seen in Egypt)
  • Amount of refugees and internally displaced peoples (refugees are people who’ve crossed international borders). Both leaving or entering refugees can undermine stability.
  • Historical Injustice – communities can have an understandably hard time forgetting the past, just look at Isreal/Palestine.
  • Brain Drain – when countries start to fail, the first to leave are the ones who can afford to. Yet these intellectuals and professionals, with their college degree are vital for creating a stable and prosperous country.
  • Inequality – especially when driven by active discrimination (wealth inequality is something to watch out for).
  • Economic decline – pushes trade into the black market and increases criminality and corruption.
  • Illegitimacy of the state – if people don’t believe the people in government have everyone in the country’s best interests at heart, and are only looking out for themselves and their friends, then there’s probably going to be trouble.
  • Public Services go kaput – It’s a really bad sign when the government can meet people’s basic needs – like picking up the garbage.
  • The Rule of Law goes kaput – when you’re ruled by the caprice of men, and your rights under the law are not respected, you may begin to consider and agitate for other options for government.
  • Personal Armies – forces that are tied to individual leaders, like private militias or super-secret police for example, are very damaging to a country’s cohesion.
  • Fighting elites – healthy countries need robust arguments in their political class – think checks and balances – but it can go too far and lead to things like extreme nationalism and ethnic cleansing.
  • Invasion – both overt invasion and covert meddling in the affairs of a country are unhealthy for that state’s stability.

It’s also very nice that you can download their index data as a MS Excel spreadsheet, which you can let students analyze to answer their own research questions. For example, I was wondering what was the difference between the best, the worst and the USA, so I plotted this graph.

Comparing the best (Finland), worst (Somalia) and the USA using the Fund for Peace's Failed State Indicies.

The USA is much closer to Finland than Somalia, thank goodness, but should probably watch out for that Uneven Development (wealth inequality).

I think something like this would make a good experiential exercise for the science of geography.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2011. What's Needed for a Nation's Peace, Retrieved April 20th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Nashville flooding and mid-latitude cyclones

May 9, 2010

Nashville, TN, May 4, 2010. (photo by David Fine/FEMA)

Daily weather map for May 2nd, 2010. Note the cold front heading toward Nashville. Map from the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center.

Over 30 cm of rainfall in just two days resulted in extensive flooding in Nashville, TN, last week. The precipitation was produced by one of those typical mid-latitude cyclones that sweep across the United States, from west to east, every spring and fall. The Boston Globe has some amazing picture of the flooding.

The news media tends to have the most dramatic photographs of disasters, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also tends to have good images from their aerial surveys (like the image at the top of this post). And images produced by the government are in the public domain so you don’t have to worry about using them.

May 2-6 fronts. Animation generated using images from the HPC.

For discussing warm fronts, cold fronts and mid-latitude cyclones, NOAA‘s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) is a great resource. You can find an archive of daily weather maps for the U.S. that you can click through to see the fronts move.

Infra-red satellite image of the continental U.S.. Note the alignment of the clouds and precipitation with the fronts in the first (static) weather map above. (Image from GOES).

Satellite imagery usually complements to the frontal weather maps very well. Most satellites orbit around the Earth pretty quickly, at just the right orbital speed that the centrifugal force just balances the Earth’s gravity so the satellite does not crash into the atmosphere or escape into space. Some satellites are set into orbit a bit further out so that they can rotate with the Earth, effectively staying above the same place all the time. NOAA has a few of these geostationary satellites monitoring the weather around the world, and you can get real-time images from the Geostationary Satellite Server. There used to be archived satellite images but I can’t seem to find them at the moment.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2010. Nashville flooding and mid-latitude cyclones, Retrieved April 20th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Federal Reserve’s economic data

March 20, 2010

The St. Louis Federal Reserve has a Summer School program for teachers. Two of the sessions deal with current events (banking crisis and jobs) but the third covers the data and primary source documents that bank makes available online (for free). These include the FRED and GeoFred websites.

Unemployment data for the Eastern US from GeoFRED.

GeoFred produces graphs like the one above showing economic statistics across the country. It can do it on a state by state basis, by county (as above), or by even more refined areas.


FRED plots graphs and even provides the data for economic statistics over time. The graph above shows GDP since they started collecting data in the 1940’s. It also has the times of recessions shaded in. The data in the graph can also be downloaded if you want to do your own analysis.

These seem to be handy little tools for teaching and for research projects, and are pretty easy to use.

The teachers’ training sessions are free though you have to get your own housing. They do provide breakfast and lunch. If you want graduate credit for them however, each three day session will cost around $306 and garner one credit.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2010. Federal Reserve's economic data, Retrieved April 20th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.


March 17, 2010

Answers to the question 'Some people say that it is better for a country if different racial and ethnic groups maintain their distinct customs and traditions. Others say that it is better if these groups adapt and blend into the larger society. Which of these views comes closer to your own?' sorted by year in which the respondent was born.

UC Berkley’s Survey Documentation and Analysis (SDA) website has a lot of potential as a research tool for the more advanced middle-schooler. I greatly encourage students to do original research in their semester-long Independent Research Projects. They pose questions, collect and/or analyze data and slog through the challenges of dealing with open ended questions. Middle school is the appropriate time for this as they are working on their formal thinking skills. With the increasing availability of websites like the SDA, everyone can gain access to research grade datasets.

The SDA is powerful because it has a lot of data from survey questions dealing with a large number of survey issues, from race relations, to perceptions of the economy, to use of the web. But with that power is a certain degree of complexity. It took me a while this morning to decipher the web interface and I’m no where near plumbing all the nuances of the statistical analysis, but it’s not too hard to do some basic plots.

Right side of the SDA webpage.

On the left side of the window is a list of all the survey questions available. There are a lot but they each have the full question so it’s pretty easy to figure out what they mean. When you select one, such as the opposition to a family member bringing home a black/negro friend for dinner, it gives you the little code, “RACDIN” in this case that you enter as the Row on the right side of the window (see the above figure). Now I want to know how people’s answers to that question changed based on how old they are, so for the Column option I put in “AGE”. Of course what I actually put in is “AGE(c:10,1)” which tells the program to lump all the age data into 10 year sets, starting at age 1.

Answer to the question, 'How strongly would you object if a member of your family wanted to bring a (negro/black) friend home to dinner?' sorted by age of the respondent.

Students will certainly need help getting started, and I could add video instructions if anyone wants it.

Now comes the most interesting part, interpreting the graphs. I like the plot at the top of this post for this reason. It shows that the younger people are the more likely they are to think it’s better if racial and ethnic groups maintain their customs and traditions. Does this mean that younger people have more racist attitudes, trying to maintain separation, or does it mean that they are more accepting of different cultures?

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2010. The SDA, Retrieved April 20th, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

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