Your Assignment

Author Subject: Your Assignment
Sean Chamberlin Posted At 16:54:45 10/13/2000
Okay, here's the next X-game, which you can do by yourself or with someone. I say that with some trepidation because I would rather than you work with someone but given that this X-game is another experiment, I'll let you go it alone if you insist. No matter how you do it, you will want to understand all parts of it. There will be a 15-point quiz associated with this exercise. The other 15 points will come from your completion of an activity listed below.


El Nino is a topic that is highly relevant to our lives here in southern California and this topic helps you to see the connections between atmospheric and oceanic processes. It incorporates a lot of the processes that are important to understanding oceanography AND teaches us something about the nature of scientific predictions.

The documentary on which this web site is based airs Tuesday, October 17, at 9pm on PBS. You may see a preview of this program here:

Assignment: Part One

Go to this web site, Chasing El Nino, and study it thoroughly:

Make sure you cover the five major headings (links): El Niņo's Reach Across the Globe | El Niņo's Ground Zero | Global Weather Machine | El Niņo's Reach through Time | El Niņo's Reach into Living Things

Take the 15-point exam on this web site. The exam will be available next week. You will have one-half hour to complete it. Hint: It will help if you watch the show. Record it if you can't be there to see it when it airs. Even better, get together with your classmates and watch it. Or have one of your classmates record it and get together and watch it!

Assignment: Part Two

Please carry out this exercise (which you can also find at and put the answers to the questions in the forum for El Nino at

Worth 15 points

Centuries before meteorologists had advanced technology for making weather forecasts, people observed the natural world and looked for patterns to help explain and predict weather. Many of these observations were turned into sayings and passed down through generations. For example, "The louder the frog, the more the rain," or "A sunny shower won't last an hour." But how accurate is weather folklore? Find out by designing an experiment that puts it to the test.

A cow with its tail to the west makes weather best; a cow with its tail to the east makes weather the least.

Guiding Steps and Questions
Use these steps to help you design your experiment.

Select a Folklore Saying
Evaluate whether the folklore saying can be tested through scientific investigation.
What constraints must you consider (such as availability of time and space, limitations of equipment, cost, safety issues)?

Create a Question
Change the folklore saying into a question that can be answered through scientific investigation.
What do you predict will be the answer to your question and why?

Design the Experiment
Identify the variables in the experiment.
What kinds of data will help you answer your question?
What data will you use to support your prediction?
How will you collect, record and represent your data?
What materials will you need?
What steps will you take to carry out the experiment?

When ants travel in a straight line, expect rain; when they scatter, expect fair weather.

Review the Experimental Design
Have another team review your experimental design. What questions do they raise and how might you address them? If there is any part of your experiment you are having a problem with, ask the other team for input or advice.
Have your teacher review and approve your experiment before proceeding.

Do the Experiment
Record the actual steps you take to carry out the experiment.
Record your data.

Analyze the Data
What patterns do you see in the data?
How do you interpret the data? What evidence supports your interpretation?
What might be inaccurate about your interpretation?
How else can you explain the data? List two alternative explanations.
How can you organize the data to present the strongest explanation for your conclusion?

When leaves show their backs, it will rain.

Reflect on Your Experiment
Identify some of the flaws in your experimental design. How would you change your experiment if you were to repeat it?
What new questions do you have after doing this experiment?

Share Your Findings and Interpretations
First share your experimental design and then have your fellow classmates predict what they think you found.
Next, share your data with them and have them try and interpret what you found.
Finally, share your own conclusions and discuss any differing views as a class.

A Sample of Weather Folklore

Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.
The louder the frog, the more the rain.
A sunny shower won't last an hour.
When doors and windows stick, it will probably rain.
A wind from the south has rain in its mouth.
Haloes around the sun or moon indicate a rain or snow real soon.
When a cow endeavors to scratch his ear, it means a rain shower is very near. When he thumps his ribs with an angry tail, look out for thunder, lightning and hail.
Crickets are accurate thermometers; they chirp faster when warm and slower when cold.
High clouds indicate fine weather will prevail; lower clouds mean rain.
When clouds look like rocks and towers, the Earth will be refreshed by showers.

W. Sean Chamberlin, PhD
Online Coordinator/Assistant Professor
Fullerton College
M. Robert Botzheim,518598 El Nino Assignment (Currently 0 replies)
Posted At 20:07:44 10/29/2000

Robert Botzheim, 518598
My folklore saying is "when ants travel in a straight line, expect rain; when they scatter, expect fair weather.
1. I can test this by walking through my yard or at work and finding my results from the first group of ants I find. I will have to be careful to choose my times to look for ants when I will find ants outside. I will do this over a 5 day period.

2. My question is: if I see ants in a straight line or scattered, will it rain that day or sunshine? I think that I will find this to be inaccurate, because I most often see ants in a line.

3. My variables will be: ants in a line, ants scattered, rain, and no rain. My data will be rain, lack of rain, ants in line, ants scattered. I will collect my data by going outside once a day and finding ants. I will then find out the weather for that day. I will then place these variables in a chart.
4. I was asked how I was going to document whether the ants were scattered or in a line. Are a few scattered and a lot in line, etc.? I responded that I was going to go by consensus of the ants. If most of them were in line, than I would record them as in line.
I wondered if the ants predicted weather for the next day, the next hour or that day. I think most people thought that day.
5. Wed-25/thu-26/fri-27/sat-28/sun-29
ants line line scat line line
rain yes no yes yes yes
6. My saying was accurate 60% during the time tested. I think the data was inaccurate in that I just happened to pick a rainy wook to do my test. I think this because I saw ants in a line all this beautiful sunny summer. I think the ants positioning can better be explained by what the ants are doing at the time, are they traveling somewhere or are they collecting something.
7. My experiment was over to short a time and would have been better over a longer period of time with different weather. It was also hard to find ants on a rainy day. Maybe the ants were so scattered on a sunny day that I was missing some of the ants.

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